From the photo and research collection of Jim Lang, son of John Lang, son of Maximilian Lang, son of Ferdinand Lang, son of Johann Lang; and Anne Lang, daughter of Franz Lang, son of Michael Lang, son of the same Johann Lang, who supervised the construction of St. John Nepomuk Church, pictured here.
Photos & Videos of Felizienthal (Dolynivka) and Area
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Note that the videos were made in 2003, hence the low resolution.
Photos of Hesselsdorf (Host'ka), Czech Republic and the Egerland
At left: Parts One and Two of the video, "In Search of Felizienthal." Below, Part Three (final part).
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Part Three, above, focuses on the village, itself, as it was in 2003.
Important Links and Resources
Welcome! This site may be of interest to anyone who descends from the formerly (1835-1940) German-speaking villages of what is now western Ukraine, with a particular focus on Felizienthal, Annaberg and Karlsdorf. As other sources and websites with links elsewhere on this page will contain more detailed history and genealogical information, this site is focused primarily on photographs taken on site in and around the villages of Annaberg and Felizienthal. Please note that all the photos are assumed to be the property of Jim Lang or of another photographer. You are welcome to download them, as is, for family or personal purposes, but you are requested not to repost them on websites or in social media, or use them for commercial purposes without express permission from Jim Lang. Contact Jim Lang
"I believe we become the stories told to us and those we tell each other, just as our lives ultimately become the stories others tell about us. In profoundly important ways, we are a creation of our families, who taught us, through words and by example, to be who we are. Without understanding the story of our family, we are like a locus without a radius, a point in time rather than a line across time. Knowing something of our ancestors helps us to see ourselves in the context of our lineage—coming from somewhere in the past, pointing to somewhere in the future. To know ourselves better, we need to know the people who gave us life, nurtured us, introduced us to language and culture, and who provided us with our moral compass—a guide for living in communion with other persons. We are not predestined. We become who we are, shaped by our parents, as they were by their parents, generation after generation. The more we know our ancestors, the better we can know—and change—ourselves." –Jim Lang, from the introduction to the book, Felizienthal: Conversations with My Ancestors.
In Search of Felizienthal Jim Lang In 1526, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria became the new king of Bohemia. During his reign, German-speaking settlers from Bavaria, on Bohemia's western border, were invited to cross into Bohemia and settle in the Egerland area, named for the Eger river. Dozens of German-speaking villages were established, with Eger (today, Cheb) as their principal hub, and the region became known as German Bohemia (Deutsche Bohmen). Among these was the village of Hesselsdorf (today: Host'ka), one of the ancestral Lang family villages, from which both lines of my family descend. In 1772, the Austro-Hungarian Empire annexed Galicia (Galizien, in German), and encouraged German Bohemian farmers to move east and settle in what is now western Ukraine, around the city of Lemberg (today, L'Viv). In 1835, a land-owner named (Baron) Karl von Seiff, who lived in the village of Smorze nestled at the west end of a valley about 100kms south of Skole, Ukraine, desired to have his valley deforested and developed into farms. He arranged for a private migration of about 100 families from Hesselsdorf and other villages in the Egerland to establish three villages to be named after his children: Karlsdorf (Karl), Annaberg (Anna), and Felizienthal (Felix). The settlers were all Roman Catholic, the state religion of the Hapsburg Empire, and they petitioned the Archbishop in Lemberg to establish a church in Felizienthal. To oversee its construction, they engaged a newer settler, Johann Lang, who arrived from Hesselsdorf, Bohemia, around 1844. The church was completed around 1859, at which time a document was placed in the cornerstone that tells the story of the settlers. It is included in the material on this page. Following WWI, Western Galizien was ceded to Poland, which governed the territory and the villages until 1939, when Poland was occupied by the Germans at the start of WWII. German-speaking settlers were given the option of remaining in the villages, under Russian rule--per the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty--or returning to their "home in Germany." All but one person in Felizienthal voted to leave. However, home would not be in Germany, per se, but rather in the newly annexed Poland, occupied German territory. Around the turn of the 20th century, many families from Felizienthal migrated farther East to Bukovina, near Cernowitz. And not long after, many chose to emigrate to Canada and the United States, lured by the promise of "free land." Most of Jim Lang's ancestors who emigrated arrived in Canada and the United States between 1903-1908, with the majority settling in and/or taking homesteads in Saskatchewan, Canada. About half of the larger family remained in Europe where they suffered through two lost wars and countless atrocities. Felizienthal fell under the cloak of the Iron Curtain, its name changed to Dolynivka (Valley Village), lost to the rest of the world. Nearby top security Soviet defense installations hermetically sealed off the area for more than forty years. In 1989-91, as the Soviet Union crumbled, Ukraine opened to the world, and the far-flung descendants of the German-speaking Felizienthal families--scattered across the globe--began to search for their roots. Among them was Jim Lang, the great-great-grandson of the man who oversaw the construction St. John Nepomuk Church. Canadian and American Langs and related families had lost their collective memories of the ancestral village. They were told that the wars had demolished the village and the church. Although other descendants from Germany were early arrivals and knew the truth, Jim Lang's North American clan did not. When he returned to the village in 2003, he was shocked to see that the church was still standing. The photos and videos on this site were taken in just a few hours over the two days that Jim and his wife, Mary, spent in the village. The photos, below, may well be some of the only surviving pictures of detailed aspects of the church, which, tragically, burned to the ground in 2006, 150 years after it was built.
Gallery #1: Maps of Bohemia, Galicia, and the Felizienthal area. Last pic, an excerpt from the church cornerstone document, below this gallery.
Translation of Cornerstone Document
St. John Nepomuk Church
Edited [indicated by square brackets] for spelling and punctuation by Jim Lang (son of John, son of Maximilian, son of Ferdinand, son of Johann; and Ann Lang sister of Rose, daughter of Franz, son of Michael, son of Johann)
This is a copy, left by our ancestors, of the document placed in the cornerstone of the church, St. Johann von Nepomuk, built by the them in Felizienthal Austria, Province of Galicia, near the city of Lemberg [today, L'Viv].
We the emigrants out of our homeland, Deutche Bohman [German Bohemia], Egerland, Tachau, Marienbad, Karlsbad, Eger-bohmerland, Bayern, Kuchwarda, and other Austrians from there, came here in the year 1835. Free land was made available by a kind benefacdtor, Herr Carl Von Seiff, consisting mainly of heavy woodland. His request, that the area consist of three colonies (villages) to be named after his children. (Felix) Felizienthal (32 families); (Anna) Annaberg, 23 families; and (Karl) Karlsdorf, 45 families.
They cleared the land by the sweat of their brow and built homes for themselves. The climate there was very raw and cold, as it is situated near the Carpathian mountains – to the north. A region too cold for growing fruit. The people felt a great need for a church and to give thanks to Almighty God for their good fortune! After many petitions, and a long struggle, permission was granted, by the church through his Excellence, Archbishop Lukas v Baroniecek, city of Lemberg in the year 1856.
The ground was blessed and the building begun in 1857. The material for the church consisted of hand-hewn logs from their forest. District foremen were, Franz Laurick, and village mayor, Leo Fotemir. The architect and main construction supervisor was Johann Lang. The ground blessing was by Kalan Ludwig Dutzinski, from Kreis-Komusare von Stark, and the cornerstone laid by Ludwig and Fotemir, witnessed by Johann Lang, Johann Guntner, and Michael and Andreas Kraus. The building could then begin! Many tears were shed during the ceremony, it was a dream come true, for the people.
To our family members who read this in future years, when you read this history, handed down to us, pray for them our forefathers, who trusted and remained faithful to God! As it is only through Him that we attain our reward in heaven. The End.
Translator’s [Rose Lang] note: The village of Felizienthal was in the province of Galicia, in Austria, within the district of the city of Lemberg. When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, his path led through there [Jim Lang adds: This is inaccurate. In WWII, the Soviets invaded from the East, under an agreement with HItler]. So all the residents were evacuated and re-settled in Germany by the German government [Jim Lang adds: Actually, many were initially resettled in German-occupied Poland]. Our grandfather, Michael Lang, then over 90 years of age, died en route on this trek. The village was completely destroyed by the invasion of that area. It has been under Russian rule since 1944 since the second world war. [Jim Lang note: As we now know, the village was not destroyed, and Michael Lang survived for some time in a concentration camp in or near Lodz, Poland, until the family was relocated to a farm. This information comes from Siegfried Lang, grandson of Michael Lang, who was present in the camp and who recounted the information to Jim Lang]
This information and printed document was given to myself, Rose [Lang; Langenfeld] Gentges by a cousin, Michael Lang in Weilheim Ob Bayern [Bavaria] in July 16, 1962, on the occasion of our visit with them. – Rose Gentges, Dec 31, 1983
Gallery #2: Arriving in Felizienthal in 2003, with views from and of Annaberg and east Felizienthal.
Gallery #3: Pictures of the village, showing various houses, the old German school. Note, the village is several kilometers in length, winding along the Smorzanka river. Annaberg is on the east end, and beyond the west end is Smorze.
Gallery #4: Exterior photos of St. John Nepomuk Church; from left, an archival post card; photo of the church before painting, likely around 1992; as it appeared in 2003; various views, including one from the old German school building, across the road. and the doors on the east side; and finally, what remained of the church after the fire in 2006.
Gallery #5: Interior photos of the church. The art you see was painted directly onto the walls and ceiling--by a skilled painter. The organ is of particular interest to the Lang family. Jim Lang's grandfather, Franz, on his mother's side, was asked to take organ lessons in Vienna, when he was stationed there in the military, so that he could play the "new" organ when he returned. He did, and he did.
Gallery #6: The attick contains statuary defaced by the Soviets, when they used the church as a storage building. Other pics show the construction--all hand-hewed wood. Also, an old tool box.
Gallery #7: The bell tower, showing the cross-bracing that held the bell, which was moved outside as the tower was showing wear in supporting its weight.
Gallery #8: Photos from Hesselsdorf, today, Host'ka, in the western Czech Republic, showing the old German cemetery, the village, and the church, dating from 1744. Jim Lang believes it is possible that Johann Lang used this church as a template to build St. John Nepomuk. Also, the last four photos are from Cheb, formerly Eger, near the Bavarian border. Jim and Mary visited there by accident, delighted to learn that it was the largest town in the Egerland, likely often frequented by ancestors in the 1700's and 1800's.
The final illustration, above, depicts the death of Karl Lang, son of Maxilimilian, son of Ferdinand, son of Johann, in the battle for the Hitler Line, Liri Valley, Italy, May, 1944. (End)