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Danube Swabian Orphans

Johann Schetterer (Ivan Cetri)

Biography

Translated by Rosina T. Schmidt

My Name is Johann Schetterer (Ivan Cetri), born on 7th of March 1941 in Neu Schowe (Ravno Selo). Everything that I am about to write down now I discovered after my arrival in Germany.

My father was Adam Schetterer, born on 13th of March 1913 in Kutzura, Serbia. My mother’s name was Elisabeth Heinz, born on 22nd of April 1919 in Schowe.

Towards the end of the War we were deported from our Schowe village. Some earlier, some later. My mother and myself ended up in Neusatz’ (Novi Sad) internment camp with other villagers from Schowe. I no longer recall the exact dates. My father was in the German Army, from where he later ended up as French prisoner of war. He stayed there until 1950. After my mother died in the camp and I no longer had anyone, I ended up with other children from the camp in Kruševlje or Gakovo (Serbia). That is where the children were registered and from where they were abducted to the orphanages in Slovenia.

My own experiences are following now.

With quite a few of the children from the expellee camps I arrived in the fall of 1947 to an orphanage in Ponikve, Slovenia. Most of the children were ethnic German of different ages. Anyone who no longer could remember their family names because he or she was too young, received a name but no birth date. I received the name Hans Schetris. (Schetris was a nickname, which we had in Schowe. Very important to my later research for my real name.)

In Ponikve, Slovenia, we were sorted in different age groups and sent to other orphanages. Myself and the boy Adolf Hauer were sent to Slivnica close to Maribor, where we started going to school in September of 1949. Of course we had to learn Slovenian language first. It was forbidden to speak German between us; therefore the knowledge of the German language was lost with the time.

We had a very difficult time in the orphanage. We were beaten and for smallest mistakes received no food. The orphanage had many farming fields and gardens, which we had to work at. There were 12 cows and numerous pigs in the stable, which us children hat to look after. The orphanage’s administrators and educators made us physically feel that we were hated ethnic Germans.

In 1953 some of the children were reunited with their families in Germany. One of them was the boy from my village, Adolf Hauer. They were photographed and their new address was noted down.

I finished the primary schooling under the wrong name and was sent to the next orphanage to Rusche (Ruse), Slovenia. That is where they noticed that my name Hans Schetris did not sound Slovenian, so the name was changed into Hans Cetri.

Quite a few children in that orphanage had no longer had any parents, the Slovenian children as well. I graduated from the high school in 1957 and started learning a trade under the name of Ivan Cetri. After graduating after three years trade school as car mechanic in 1960 I started working at the car factory TAM. Now I had my own money.

So now I was 18 and needed an identification card. The name Ivan Cetri was accepted and the rest of data I could choose. As they knew that I was ethnic German, they also told me that this identification card was just a temporary card, and as soon as I discover the real dates and names that it would be changed. 

I was sent to Belgrade in order to discover who I actually was. While at the Red Cross in Belgrade I could see the register of the children who left in 1953 for Germany. I recognized the boy from my village. With his address in hand I was able to receive the information about my real name and place of birth. His older sister and himself knew me under the name Hans Schetri (our nick name in Schowe). Some friends of Adolf’s from our village were our relatives. Their name was Schetterer and they lived now in Schrobenhausen, Germany. Until that time I knew nothing about my father or my mother and also no longer spoke any Germany.  That is how I found my father.

After I discovered my real name I wrote to Schowe (Ravno Selo, Serbia) and requested my birth certificate, which I also received with no problems. Now I could change the identification card and also all my report cards. It took a whole year of solving this mystery. At the same time I reached the age of having to be drafted to the Yugoslavian military. Of course I was impatient to be reunited with my father and fled illegally over the border from Slovenia to Austria on 30th of September 1962.

My father picked me up at the refugee center there. After 18 years that was a wonderful reunion. Of course I had to learn the German language all over again.

I am now 69 years old and much delighted that all this is happily behind me.

Johann Schetterer

Sent through e-mail 17th of Sept. 2010 with gracious permission for publication.