Among the numerous pieces of traditional costume at the Transylvanian Museum in Gundelsheim is one whose change of ownership and the resulting journey render it a fitting symbol of the collective fate of entire families, indeed entire Saxon village communities from northern Transylvania in the 20th century.
The lavishly decorated "Kirchenpelz", a woman's costume from 
deu. Kallesdorf, hun. Árokalja

Arcalia (German Kallesdorf) is a small village in Romania. It belongs to Bistriţa-Năsăud County in Transylvania.

deu. Bistritz, hun. Beszterce

Bistrița (German: Bistritz) is a Romanian city in Bistrița-Năsăud County, a part of Transylvania. About 75,000 people live in the city. The town' s old German name was Nösen.

, is a costly garment that was intended to indicate not only ethnic affiliation, but above all the economic advancement and prosperity of the family. The distinctive appearance of the "church fur coat" owes much to an interplay of Western and Eastern fashion influences. The cut is modelled on that of the military riding coat worn by the Hungarian and Polish cavalry, which was already adopted in the 17th century in the so-called Menté/Mentek, a fur-lined coat of the Saxon bourgeoisie.
The fur has a poignant story. The garment dates from 1906, as can be read in red silk embroidery on the front. An embroidered monogram "M. Sch." in blue confirms the information passed on by the donor regarding the original owner of the precious piece – this was Maria Schuster, a farmer's daughter, who was born on April 6, 1889 in Kallesdorf near Bistritz in northern
deu. Siebenbürgen, deu. Transsylvanien, deu. Transsilvanien, ron. Transilvania, ron. Ardeal

Transylvania is a historical landscape in modern Romania. It is situated in the center of the country and is populated by about 6.8 million people. The major city of Transylvania is Cluj-Napoca. German-speaking minorities used to live in Transylvania.

. The fur was part of the young woman's dowry when she married Johann Theis, a farmer's son, in Kallesdorf in 1906 at the age of seventeen and was allowed to wear the fur for the first time as a bride on her way to church. 
The fur passed from Maria to her daughter Sophia Theis, born on September 14, 1910, on the occasion of her marriage to Johann Schuster. When the pregnant Sophia had to flee from the approaching front with her five young children and her husband in the late summer of 1944, she took the valuable coat, which had once served as her bridal coat, with her on the long journey. The children and women from Kallesdorf began their journey in
deu. Reussen, hun. Szeretfalva

Sărățel is a village in Transsylvania and today belongs to the municipality Șieu-Măgheruș in the district Bistrița-Năsăud.

on September 17, 1944 in railroad cars via 
hun. Magyarország, deu. Ungarn

Hungary is a country in Central Europe, whose capital is Budapest. The country is home to about 10 million people and was part of the so-called Habsburg Empire for several centuries. Hungary has been a member of the European Union since 01.05.2004. The Danube is the largest river in the country.

 in the direction of
deu. Österreich

Austria is a country in Central Europe populated by about 8.9 million people. The capital of the country is Vienna.

. It is said that two days later, on September 19, at 11 a.m., the men with the cattle teams from Kallesdorf set off in the direction of the town of Bethlen (today 
deu. Bethlen, hun. Bethlen, ron. Beclean pe Someș

Beclean (German: Bethlen) is a small town in northern Romania populated by just under 10,000 people. The town is situated in the Transylvanian county of Bistrița-Năsăud, about 500 km northwest of the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

deu. Rumänien, ron. România

Romania is a country in southeastern Europe with a population of almost 20 million people. The capital of the country is Bucharest. The state is situated directly on the Black Sea, the Carpathian Mountains and borders Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova. Romania was established in 1859 from the merger of Moldova and Wallachia. Romania is home to Transylvania, the central region for the German minority there.

). Via Hungary, the refugee train finally reached Upper Austria on November 19, 1944, where the two groups met in Steyr.
The Theis family finally landed in Rohr im Kremstal, where Sophia gave birth late in the evening of January 18, 1945, in the midst of wartime operations, with a curfew in effect and severe birth complications. The permission requested from the authorities to transfer the woman in labor to the hospital was granted too late, and the mother of several children bled to death and died together with her child.
The fur came from the estate into the possession of Sophia's eldest son, Johann Schuster, who was born on May 1, 1929, still in Kallesdorf. From Grünberg in Upper Austria, where Johann Schuster lived all his life as a respected butcher, the garment passed to his son Hans Schuster, then a four-year-old, after his death in 1957. 
Hans Schuster Jr. emigrated to South Africa in the 1970s, taking the memento of his family and Transylvanian heritage with him. In his home in Olifantsfontein, his grandmother's and great-grandmother's bridal coat held a place of honor for decades. During a visit to Austria in 2015, the then 62-year-old Hans brought the fur back to his sister Brigitte, married Hillbrand, in Grünberg - the last stop before Gundelsheim, where it found its final place with its story embedded in the contexts of Transylvanian war and post-war fates in the 20th century.