Germans turn forests into grain fields, schoolrooms and prayer rooms, but Czechs make them into hop gardens and taverns? What comes up when we compare Volhynia's two migrant groups and what can be learned from their past experiences, now and in the future?
Workshop with student-friendly illustrated introductory lectures on the topic, didactic guide and didactic material for a writing workshop (possible forms: Short story, diary entry, fictional interview, comic, social media post, poster, photo story, etc.) to process exemplary biographies of Czech and German immigrants in Volhynia in the 19th century; group work: 1. analogies and differences between history of Volhynian Germans and Volhynian Czechs, 2. analogies and differences when compared with today's economic migrants.[
deu. Wolhynien, pol. Wolyń, ukr. Воли́нь, ukr. Wolyn, deu. Wolynien, lit. Voluinė, rus. Волы́нь, rus. Wolyn

The historical landscape of Volhynia is located in northwestern Ukraine on the border with Poland and Belarus. Already in the late Middle Ages the region fell to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and from 1569 on belonged to the united Polish-Lithuanian noble republic for more than two centuries. After the partitions of Poland-Lithuania at the end of the 18th century, the region came under the Russian Empire and became the name of the Volhynia Governorate, which lasted until the early 20th century. The Russian period also saw the immigration of German-speaking population (the so-called Volhyniendeutsche), which peaked in the second half of the 19th century. After the First World War Volhynia was divided between Poland and the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, from 1939, as a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, completely Soviet and already in 1941 occupied by the Wehrmacht. Under German occupation there was systematic persecution and murder of the Jewish population as well as other parts of the population.
After World War II, Volhynia again belonged to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and since 1992 to Ukraine. The landscape gives its name to the present-day Ukrainian oblast with its capital Luzk (ukr. Луцьк), which is not exactly congruent.

 is a historical region located in present-day 
ukr. Ukrajina, deu. Ukraine

Ukraine is a country in eastern Europe inhabited by about 42 million people. Kiev is the capital and also the greatest city of Ukraine. The country has been independent since 1991. The Dnieper River is the longest river in Ukraine.

. Initially belonging to the East Slavic principality of
Principality of Galicia–Volhynia
deu. Fürstentum Galizien-Wolhynien, deu. Fürstentum Halitsch-Wolhynien, eng. Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, deu. Russisches Königreich, deu. Ruthenisches Königreich, eng. Kingdom of Ruthenia, lat. Regnum Galiciæ et Lodomeriæ, eng. Principality of Halych-Volhynia

The principality of Galicia-Volhynia was formed around 1200 as an independent part of Kyiv Rus'. It continued to exist beyond the Mongol expansion as an independent political dominion until the 14th century.

, in the 14th century it came under the rule of
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
rus. Velikoe knjažestvo Litovskoe, rus. Великое княжество Литовское, pol. Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie, bel. Vialikaie Kniastva Litoŭskaie, bel. Вялікае Княства Літоўскае, lit. Lietuvos Didžioji Kunigaikštystė, lat. Magnus Ducatus Lituania, deu. Grpßfürstentum Litauen, Ruthenien und Schemaitien, deu. Großfürstentum Litauen

The territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was settled by Baltic Lithuanians as early as the 11th century. These different "tribes" formed the Grand Duchy in the 13th century. The expansion of the Grand Duchy was mostly positioned to the east, as the Teutonic Order blocked the access to the Baltic Sea from the 13th century. In 1320, Grand Duke Gediminas conquered Kiev. From 1386, the Grand Duchy was under the same ruler as the Polish Kingdom (personal union) in order to be able to assert itself against the strengthening Teutonic Order in the region. In 1569, Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania also became unified states.

, then
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
lit. Abiejų Tautų Respublika, pol. Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów, deu. Polen-Litauen, deu. Erste Polnische Republik, lat. Respublica Poloniae, pol. Korona Polska i Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie, lat. Res Publica Utriusque Nationis, deu. Republik beider Völker

As early as 1386, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were united by a personal union. Poland-Lithuania existed as a multi-ethnic state and a great power in Eastern Europe from 1569 to 1795. In the state, also called Rzeczpospolita, the king was elected by the nobles.

. After the partitions of Poland, the area belonged to 
Russian Empire
rus. Росси́йская импе́рия, rus. Rossijskaja imperija, deu. Russisches Kaiserreich, deu. Russländisches Reich, deu. Russländisches Kaiserreich

The Russian Empire (also Russian Empire or Empire of Russia) was a state that existed from 1721 to 1917 in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and North America. The country was the largest contiguous empire in modern history in the mid-19th century. It was dissolved after the February Revolution in 1917. The state was regarded as autocratically ruled and was inhabited by about 181 million people.

 from 1793 and 1795, respectively, and after World War I it was divided into Polish and Soviet halves.
When Russia abolished serfdom in 1861, there was a labor shortage in Volhynia, which was under Russian rulership. To remedy it, permission was given for German and Czech colonies to be established. Moreover, as a punishment for their participation in the January Uprising of 1863/64, Polish landowners were expropriated, which freed up cheap land. For these reasons Czechs also began to immigrate from the crown land of
deu. Böhmen, lat. Bohemia, ces. Čechy

Bohemia is a historical landscape in present-day Czech Republic. Together with Moravia and the Czech part of Silesia, the landscape forms the present territory of the Czech Republic. Nowadays, almost 6.5 million people live in the region. The capital of Bohemia is Prague.

, which belonged to 
deu. Österreich-Ungarn, deu. Donaumonarchie, deu. Doppelmonarchie, deu. Habsburgerreich, deu. Habsburgisches Reich, deu. Habsburgermonarchie, hun. Osztrák-Magyar Birodalom, eng. Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, eng. Austrian-Hungarian Empire

Austria-Hungary (Hungarian: Osztrák-Magyar Monarchia), also known as Imperial and Royal Hungary Monarchy, was a historical state in Central and Southeastern Europe that existed from 1867 to 1918.

 and had been economically weakened after the war with Prussia in 1866.
Many of the immigrant German families were of Protestant faith. They were welcomed by the Russian government as a counterweight to the Catholic Poles and the Jews. The land that the German and Czech families leased or acquired was often a wild patch of forest that had to be cleared and reclaimed before houses could be built and farm cultivation could begin. For the most part, people lived in earthen huts for as long as they could, which provided protection against heat and cold. The new settlers revolutionized the cultivation of fruit and vegetables on the basis of the experience gained in their homeland, introduced crops previously unknown in the region, such as hops, as well as livestock breeding and food production.
While the reform-minded Russian emperor Alexander II had welcomed immigrants as economic innovators, his successor Alexander III restricted them again. In the 1880s, the German population in Volhynia increased due to the immigration of large numbers of impoverished peasants from Poland and high rates of childbirth, and their land holdings expanded accordingly. On the other hand, there was a large number of impoverished Russian peasants who had not learned to farm their own land productively during the years of serfdom. Beginning in the late 1880s, the tsar introduced laws prohibiting foreigners from acquiring or leasing land and restricting the inheritance of existing land holdings. The legislation became so stringent that even persons with Russian citizenship but of foreign origin were prohibited from acquiring land. The only exceptions were granted to those who converted to the Orthodox faith, which around 75 percent of the Volhynia Czechs then did. Previously, most of them had followed the Catholic faith, like the Poles, and had therefore been discriminated against.
Long-existing lease and purchase contracts were invalidated or often renewed on bad terms for the Volhynian Germans. As a result, many of them suffered hardship and had to abandon their colonies. About 30,000 emigrated to North and South America, mainly to Brazil. Nevertheless, by 1897, their share of the population in Volhynia had grown to 5.7 percent. Volhynian Czechs accounted for 0.9 percent. Ukrainians made up 70 percent, Jews 13.2 percent, and Poles 6.1 percent of the population. Due to the continuously high birth rate, the proportion of Germans in Volhynia continued to rise until World War I, partly because the strict legal restrictions on land acquisition had in the meantime been relaxed again and purchase permits had increasingly been issued. The war had different effects on the two minority groups. While the Volhynian Czechs, as Slavs, were allowed to form their own military units, the approximately 200,000 Germans were treated as possible enemies and evacuated to
rus. Sibir, rus. Сиби́рь, deu. Sibirien

Siberia covers an area of 12.8 million square kilometers between the Urals, the Pacific Ocean, the North Polar Sea, China and Mongolia.The Russian conquest of Siberia began in 1581/82. At the time of the Enlightenment mainly a source of raw materials and space for trade with Asia, Siberia gained importance from the 19th century as a place for penal colonies and exiles. With the development of the Trans-Siberian Railway and steam navigation at the end of the 19th century, industrialization and thus new settlers came to Siberia. Further industrialization under Stalin was implemented primarily with the labor of Gulag prisoners and prisoners of war.

The map shows North Asia, centrally located Siberia. CIA World Factbook, edited by Veliath (2006) and Ulamm (2008). CC0 1.0.

ahead of the approaching German army, with whom it was feared they would fraternize. It is estimated that one third of all Volhynian Germans died of disease, hunger or deprivation during this deportation. Another third emigrated to the German Reich or overseas, and the final third returned to the devastated former frontline region of Volhynia in the years after the war, but found their farms and land in the hands of Poles or Ukrainians.
Initially, Volhynian Czechs and Germans in the Soviet part of Volhynia experienced a renewed upswing, the latter also financially and culturally supported by the German Reich. The homogeneous German settlement area around
deu. Heimthal, ukr. Yasenivka, ukr. Jaseniwka, ukr. Ясенівка, ukr. Stara Budy, ukr. Стара Буда
(today the Ukrainian Yasenivka), for example, was officially declared the "German Rayon Pulin" and the official language was German. But in the late 1920s, minority rights were restricted to such an extent that eventually even their mother-tongue languages were banned, which applied to German as well as to Czech. On the territory of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, the early 1930s brought famine triggered by crop failures, increased compulsory levies, collectivization and the persecution of independent peasants, to which millions of people fell victim, Czech and German alike.
With the beginning of World War II, the situation for the two minorities was very different: after Hitler and Stalin divided Poland between themselves on the basis of the Secret Additional Protocol to the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, the German Reich settled the Volhynia Germans in the Polish territories it occupied on the farms of the expelled native population. In the winter of 1939/40, about 66,400 Germans from the former Polish Volhynia were resettled by rail or made long treks to their new home. They were housed mainly in the "
Reichsgau Wartheland
pol. Okręg Warcki, pol. Okręg Rzeszy Kraj Warty, deu. Warthegau, deu. Wartheland, deu. Reichsgau Posen

The Reichsgau Wartheland, also known as Warthegau, was a Nazi administrative district in occupied Poland that existed from 1939 to 1945. The Reichsgau was in large parts congruent with the historical landscape of Wielkopolska and had 4.5 million inhabitants. The capital was today's Poznań.

The almost six-year occupation period was characterized by the brutal persecution and murder of the Polish and Jewish population on the one hand and the targeted resettlement of German-speaking parts of the population on the other.

Image: „Map of the administrative division of the German Eastern Territories and the General Government of the occupied Polish territories as of March 1940“. Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe – Institute of the Leibniz Association, map collection, inventory no. K 32 II L 43, edited by Copernico (2022). CC0 1.0.

" in overcrowded transitional camps, where hygienic and supply conditions were often catastrophic. In these camps they were examined for their suitability to consolidate "Germanness" in the territories occupied by the German Reich. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Volhynians, like Jews and Poles, became victims of the Nazis' racist war of extermination: entire villages such as
ces. Český Malín, pol. Malin, rus. Malin, rus. Малин, ukr. Малин

The village of Malyn today is located in western Ukraine and had about 400 inhabitants in 2001.

Due to the war in Ukraine, it is possible that this information is no longer up to date.

were massacred by the German Wehrmacht.
With the advance of the Red Army and the withdrawal of German troops from the Soviet Union, from the end of 1943 about 40,000 Germans who had not been resettled under the Hitler-Stalin Pact also left eastern Volhynia, and at the end of the war the Volhynian Germans settled in the occupied territories of Poland also fled westward. From the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany some of them were deported to the penal camps in
rus. Казахстан, deu. Kasachstan

Kazakhstan today is a landlocked Central Asian country located between Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In the past, the region was ruled by various steppe peoples until the Kazakhs subordinated themselves to the Russian Tsarist Empire in several steps between 1731 and 1742. From 1936, Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union as the Kazakh SSR; since its disintegration in 1991, Kazakhstan has been independent.

and Siberia. Only after many years were they able to return or travel to the Federal Republic of Germany as Russian-German resettlers or "late resettlers".
About 40,000 Volhynia Czechs were "repatriated" shortly after 1945 and often settled in areas of
ces. Československo, deu. Tschechoslowakei, slk. Česko-Slovensko, eng. Czecho-Slovakia

Czechoslovakia was a state existing between 1918 and 1992 with changing borders and under changing names and political systems, the former parts of which were absorbed into the present-day states of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine (Carpathian Ukraine, already occupied by Hungary in 1939, from 1945 to the Soviet Union). After 1945, Czechoslovakia was under the political influence of the Soviet Union, was part of the so-called Eastern Bloc as a satellite state, and from 1955 was a member of the Warsaw Pact. Between 1960 and 1990, the communist country's official name was Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (abbreviated ČSSR). The democratic political change was initiated in 1989 with the Velvet Revolution and resulted in the establishment of the independent Czech and Slovak republics in 1992.

from where the former German population had been expelled. This also marked the end of Czech settlement in Volhynia, although there were further smaller waves of repatriation after the
rus. Tschernobyl, eng. Chernobyl, rus. Черно́быль, ukr. Чорнобиль, pol. Czarnobyl, rus. Chernobyl, ukr. Chornobyl

Chornobyl, which was first mentioned in writing in 1193, is located in Ukraine, 15 km southwest of the border with Belarus. The town gained tragic notoriety after the reactor accident in May 1986. Chornobyl was permanently evacuated due to radioactive contamination.

Due to the war in Ukraine, it is possible that this information is no longer up to date.

nuclear disaster and after the Russian occupation of
lat. Tauris, rus. Крым, rus. Krym, ukr. Крим, ukr. Krym, deu. Krim

Crimea is a peninsula separating the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov. It is inhabited by nearly 2.3 million people. The capital is Sevastopol. The island is largely inhabited by Russian-speaking populations. Its status has been disputed under international law since 2014.

in 2014. Both in Germany and in the
ces. Česko, deu. Tschechien

The Czech Republic is a country in Central Europe with a population of about 10.5 million people. The capital and largest city of the country is Prague. In the Czech Republic lie the historical landscapes of Bohemia, Moravia and parts of Silesia. In 1918 the state of Czechoslovakia was formed, but the Czech Republic was not founded until 1993. The country has been a member of the EU since 01.05.2004.

, there are associations of the descendants of those who emigrated to Volhynia, especially in the 19th century, which keep the history of their ancestors alive. 
The didactic guide introduces the idea of comparing the migration history of the two groups. The aim is to make learners aware, on the one hand, that groups of Germans and Czechs also once moved away from their respective homelands for economic, political and religious reasons and became minorities in a foreign country. In mixed Czech-German groups, they explore this history, which is comparable despite all the differences. Looking at commonalities like this can promote mutual understanding. On the other hand, through such comparisons, the present situation facing economic migrants from less privileged regions of the world to Central Europe can be viewed in a differentiated way that encourages empathy and helps to break down a sense of "them and us". The fact that the majority of economic migrants in the Czech Republic come from Ukraine also raises interesting and relevant points of comparison. Further aspects concern the history of the expulsion and repopulation of the Czech border areas and thus also the minority history of the Germans in Bohemia.
Text: CC BY-SA 4.0

Siehe auch