01 March 2021

Lustdorf, Liebental


Two views of the main street in Lustdorf, circa 1910. The top shows the church on the right. 

Lustdorf (also known as Kaiserscheim, Olgino and Khernomorka) was a Lutheran Mother colony in the Liebental district of Russia near the Black Sea. Among the earliest colonies in the Black Sea area, it was founded in 1804 or 1805 southwest of the city of Odessa. The closest German colony to it was Kleinliebental just 3.5 miles (5.7 kilometers) to the west. 


Lustdorf on an 1855 map of Lutheran settlements in Russia. 

Lustdorf on a 1910 map of the 3rd Military Survey of Austria-Hungary.

It became populated with skilled craftsmen who worked in Odessa, so less land was allotted to the colony for agriculture. In 1859, there were 45 houses in Lustdorf. The church was built in 1869/70. The congregation paid 39,832 rubles for it. It had 300 seats and Walker organ with 11 stops.  


The Lutheran church in Lustdorf, circa 1910. 


By the late 1800s, Lustdorf had developed into a sea-side resort, spa and sanatorium, and soon, a tram from the great fountain in Odessa to Lustdorf brought Russian visitors directly to the colony for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.


Lustdorf was incorporated into the city of Odessa after 1945. Today it’s a neighborhood in the city named Chornomorka. The name Lustdorf hasn't been lost to history. There is still a tram stop named “Lystdorf Settlement.”


• • •

My personal connection to Lustdorf is my 4x great-grandfather, Johann Martin Schilling. He was my first ancestor to arrive in Russia. The month of March marked both a beginning and an ending for Martin. In March 1809, Martin and his family travelled from Steinsfurt near Sinsheim in Baden to Frankfurt am Main. There they stayed between 23 March to 4 April waiting to begin their journey to Russia. They arrived in Glückstal in July 1809. He was 42 years old. On 3 March 1848, Martin Schilling died in Lustdorf where he was living with one of his younger sons. He was 81 years old and had lived in Russia nearly half of his very long life. 

I imagine Martin as an old man by the sea looking out over the water. He stands tall with still mostly dark hair that he rakes back with his fingers as the wind gusts. He rubs his tired blue eyes and remembers where he came from, how far he has come, and he reassures himself, “I did the best I could.” I have heard these words from his descendants time and again; I hear his baritone voice supporting theirs, a major chord across time. We all do the best we can. No man can ever judge if it was enough.


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