The Odessa-area Germans had been living under the rule of the German Occupation Forces since late summer of 1941. Relieved of the terror of Communist dictates, life for the Germans resumed some normalcy. They re-opened their churches, and their children could again attend school using their native language.
But there was much turmoil everywhere. During the period of Nazi control of South Russia, the Odessa-area Germans experienced a different breed of dictatorship, complete with reprisals against the Bolsheviks, and persecutions (and executions) of “un-desirables.” Ukrainians who had been living as neighbors with the Germans were resettled so that the villages could once again be “pure” German. For awhile, there was much hope among the Germans for a better life in the future. Such was not to be.
After the defeat of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad in February 1943, the balance of war shifted. The Germans retreated, and the Soviet Red Army began its advance towards the West. The Black Sea Germans of Odessa District were ordered to evacuate South Russia and follow the retreating Nazi Wehrmacht back to Poland.
The German villagers of the Molotschna district began to leave in October and November of 1943. In March, 1944, with only a few days notice, more than 130,000 Germans of the Transniester Region, (the Germans living between the Dniester and Bug Rivers), began a very difficult journey by horse-drawn wagon, and on foot; a trip made more difficult by extremely muddy roads through difficult terrain and mixed winter-spring weather conditions. They abandoned their homes and villages, and left nearly 150 years of history behind. They would never return.
Several different routes were used depending on where the individual treks originated. When they reached Hungary, the villagers were forced to give up their beloved horses and wagons to the German army, and they continued their journey by rail to Poland. Several personal day-by-day diaries of the Trek have been published over the years. To read a few of these go to our Research Repository and select Resettlement.