Domnau, County Bartenstein, East Prussia

As long as I live, my heart belongs to Domnau, my birthplace in East Prussia. Until the day I die, I will remember my childhood there and in Tollack on my grandparents’ farm. It does not matter if Russia and Poland have stolen my homeland. They cannot steal my memories.

On January 24, 1945, just a few months before WW II ended, we fled for our lives from the advancing Russian armies. We had to leave all our possessions behind and escaped only with the clothes on our backs. I have written a book about our experiences which is called: “A Child of East Prussia – A German Girl Remembers WW II and the Post War Years.”

The country around Domnau was flat, but there were two hills, which we used in winter for sledding. The first hill was located at the end of Lüdinghausen Street on the road to Friedland. It was called the Klitter Berg (Junk Mountain). The second one was somewhat higher and located a bit further away – also on the road to Friedland. It was called Napolions-Berg (Napoleon’s Mountain). A little stream, the Gertlack, added to the beauty of the city.

The Lutheran Church, built in 1321 by the Teutonic knights overshadowed the rest of the city. It was still standing in the year 2000, but was in terrible disrepair. Former German citizens of Domnau raised the money for a new roof for the church, which prevents some further decay. Domnau also had an important cultural tradition. Already in 1400, it boasted of its first school. Since 1525 a Latin school was located here.

In 1590, Georg Weissel was born in Domnau. He died in Königsberg on August 1, 1635. His father, Johann Weissel, was a prominent citizen of Domnau. He was a judge and in later years, the Mayor of Domnau. Georg Weissel is known for his many beautiful church songs which to this day are heard all over the world in many a Christian church. One of my favorites is the Advent song “Macht hoch die Tür, die Tor macht weit” (Fling wide the door, unbar the gate).

Around 1300, German knights built a castle to protect the junction of the country roads leading from Ko”nigsberg (now Kaliningrad) to Schippenbeil and from Friedland to Preussisch Eylau.

Domnau was declared a city in the year 1400. It was the smallest city in East Prussia. Before WW II, Domnau had about 3,000 inhabitants. Now, since it is part of Russia, the population is only 700. The German name Domnau meant marshy soil.

Many kind former residents of the German Domnau are helping the Russians with food, clothing, building materials and reconstruction in general.

Former German Domnau residents and the present Russian inhabitants celebrated the six hundreds anniversary of Domnau in October of 2000. Domnau, now Domnovo, is alive, but barely.