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Trip to Ukraine and Alsace - 2007

One group of Merck descendants made a trip in May-June 2007 to visit the birthplace of Joseph John Merck, his family and ancestors in South Russia (now Ukraine). After visiting the Kutschurgan villages where they lived and the city of Odessa, they visited Alsace, France, where their Merck ancestors had resided before emigrating to South Russia in the early 1800s.


Elsass, now called by its Russian name Scherbanka, was a primary goal of our trip to the Ukraine. Founded by German immigrants in 1808, a Merck was one of the founders of the village. This is where Joseph John Merck and his wife, Katherine Cecilia Eberle, raised their family until they left South Russia for the promise of a better future in the Americas. One of the six Kutschurgan villages, Elsass was a Catholic village. It is believed that Joseph was a teacher of the children in Elsass and his wife taught catechism.


On the way to Elsass, we asked the bus driver to stop at this road sign. It points to Scherbanka, the Russian name currently used by the village. Each of us posed for a picture at the sign. This one is Ed Merck.

This map was obtained from the North Dakota State University library. It portrays the 1944 location of each family in Elsass just before the residents evacuated with the German army as Soviet troops advanced on the area.

This building was the church in Elsass until the Soviet communists converted it to public use. It is now used as a community center. The adjacent school building now houses the post office.

The relatively new school building was built on property that had been, in part, the lot of one of the Merck families in Elsass. We were privileged to have a tour of the building conducted by the school's director.

This is a view of one of the classrooms in the Elsass school.

Ukrainian school children are just as curious about visitors to their village as are kids everywhere.
Lot 51

Lot 51 was just across the street from the church building. This lot had been the site of a Merck family home prior to 1944, thus all of us wanted to have a photo taken on that ground assuming this could have been where our ancestors lived.
Merck house

One of the former Merck houses was still being used as a home. It was now occupied by a Ukrainian family. It appears that this building is one of the original village buildings which has survived for 200 years.

The ladies of the village also were interested in the large bus that pulled up in front of the former church and which unloaded an obviously curious group of people.

The Ukraine Soviet Administrator of Scherbanka was anxious to meet our group. He presented an invitation to return in September 2008 for the 200th anniversary of the founding of the village.


Mannheim is now called by its Russian name Kamenka. It was our first stop on our visit to the villages of Kutschurgan. This was where the Eberle family lived and was the birthplace of Katherine Cecilia Eberle, wife of Joseph John Merck. It was at Mannheim where they were married in 1887.


This was our first view of the former Mannheim church when we arrived at the village.

Marilyn Bruya, Jan and Mike Merck make a brief stop enroute to a closeup look of the church at Mannheim.

Ed Merck explains to the group that this is where their grandparents were married in 1887 before they established their home in Elsass to raise a family.

Our guide points out to Anna Whalen some of the markings the Russians made in the building when they converted it to civic purposes.

This is another view of the interior of the church building ruins.

Lorraine Kraft is pictured in front of the Mannheim church building.

Ed Merck shows the map of Mannheim to Sister Cathi Merck while Dan Whalen looks on.

Mike Merck, Sister Cathi Merck and Dan Whalen look on while Marilyn Bruya takes a picture.

A view of the area surrounding the church.

Another look of the Mannheim area.
Sister Anita Whalen is shown in front
of the former Mannheim cathedral.


Strassburg (now Kuchurhan) is located at the border between Ukraine and Moldova, on the East side. We found it was in a great position for our lunch stops on both of our two days visiting the villages of Kutschurgan. The restaurant we used, next to the outdoor market, is very likely located on property once the homesite of an ancestor of Lorraine Kraft, one of our group.


We felt that finding this restaurant alongside the highway was a good bit of luck.

The borscht and other food served us was so good we decided it deserved a second visit the next day.

This large church at Strassburg, as well as those built in the other villages, showed the importance their faith was to the German colonists.
Church Back

The Strassburg church had been converted to civic purposes by the Russians, as were those in the other Kutschurgan villages.

A large graveyard was located behind the church. This was an example of the graves found there.
New Church

Since religious practices are again permitted in this area, new churches have been built in recent years. This one is adjacent to the old Catholic church.
Church Rear

Ed Merck points out the location of the area which was the graveyard of the former German colonists, now neglected and abandoned.

This roadside "convenience store" served us well as a refreshment stop.


The village of Selz, now named Lymans'ka, is South of Strassburg along the Kutschurgan Liman (lake). Our interest in visiting this village was primarily to visit the museum. Following years of exile, Luisa Reisling was allowed to return to her family home in Selz. She established the museum to tell the story of the early German colonists who had established these villages. As we had in the other villages, we started our visit at the church building.


The Selz Cathedral was an impressive building.
Side View

This is a side view of the Selz Cathedral.
Dan and Anna

Dan and Anna Whalen are pictured inside the building.

Another view of the inside of the Cathedral with Ed Merck at the end.
Mike Inside

This photo shows Mike Merck inside the Cathedral.

We were not the only ones inside the church building.

A sign marks the entrance to the building housing the museum.

The museum is located adjacent to the church building.

Luisa Reisling showed us an historic piano donated to the museum.
In Museum

Cathi, Ed and Anita examine pictures and documents on museum walls.

As we left the museum, Luisa invited us to visit her home.

We all enjoyed the short walk to the Reisling home.
Cherry Juice

Following a tour of the house and cellar, Luisa
served us refreshingly cool cherry juice on her terrace.


Click here for photos taken in Alsace.

Photos were taken by Marilyn Bruya, Lorraine Kraft, Ed Merck and Anita Whalen.

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