K-W Schwaben Club to focus more on cultural
and social aspects at its new home in Breslau
Schwaben Club president Glenn Herold stands with the club flag in the outdoor area of the club’s new location in Breslau.
Photo by Carrie Debrone
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By Carrie Debrone
May 11, 2021
The Schwaben Club of Kitchener moved into its new home in Breslau in January marking the club’s 90th anniversary in a way none could have anticipated even a year earlier.
The club, which started in 1932 in a building in downtown Kitchener, relocated in the 1950s to 1668 King Street, where it remained until two months ago.
The new Donauschwaben cultural centre is now located on a three acre property at 50 Scheifele Place in Breslau. The site was the former home of the Sava Club.
Shrinking membership that has affected some of the traditional German clubs in K-W in recent years forced the Slovenian Association, which had operated the Oberkrainer Haus on Scheifele Place for six decades, to make changes and the membership voted to close their club in March.
The Schwaben Club’s decision to purchase the Sava Club and move to Breslau happened very quickly.
Schwaben President Glenn Herold said he and a few other club members came to an event hosted by the Sava Club in November 2019 when conversation about the building being used as a possible new home for the 350-member Schwaben Club first started.
“We were at one of their events with a number of our youth who were dressed up in our traditional clothing and dancing. They appreciated seeing the young people enjoying the culture, and we started talking about having us purchase their club house,” Herold said.
“We had such a large building at the King Street location, and to be able to stay there we had to have a lot of events to pay the rent. Some membership wanted to be more of a club and not have to run as a business,” Herold said.
“Being here, we control our destiny. Our focus can be more on the cultural and social sides of the club,” he said.
The former building owned by the club, was sold to a developer in December 2020.
“We were fortuitous to find this place. Most members realized that if the pandemic lasted a long time it would create a big financial hardship for us,” he said of the former building, which included a 700-seat hall and a restaurant.
The new family-oriented, smaller location is more manageable for the club. It will keep one full-time staff member, but operate mostly through its active volunteer base.
The new location has a licensed 150-seat outdoor patio, indoor bar, 200-seat main hall that is available to rent for weddings and other events, an upper floor cultural room with a library, large tables for games nights, and enough room to display club artifacts. Outside there is a pavilion, children’s playground and grassed fields that can be used for outdoor sports.
Members are working to replicate and reinstall a commemorative garden that was built at the former site.
“The new building is a testament to the hard work the Sava Club did here. They put their heart and soul into the building so there’s not a lot we need to change,” Herold said.
Members are hoping the new location will draw more young members, members from the Breslau community and possibly from Guelph.
“We’ve had calls from people in Breslau telling us that they are glad to have us here,” Herold said.
Youngest board member Nickolas Leipold, who grew up as a member of a German club in the Leamington area, said what he likes best about the club is “having a place to go and share some common ground with people.”
He added that it provides a sense of belonging and encourages everyone to get involved in its events and workshops.
“As the youngest member of the board I want to see more youth involved and I want to make things go well and have some influence. I’m excited about the new space. It gives us some room to grow and we have a great new outdoor natural area,” Leipold said.
“All the members are very happy with the move. We just couldn’t afford to keep the other building anymore,” said long-time member Seppi Hoedl, who is the club’s flag bearer and a member of the board of directors.
“We now have good green space for picnics and outdoor events. We had a clean-up two weeks ago and I was surprised to see so many young members show up to help. We were all socially distanced and the day was very successful. My wife, Monika, and I feel we’re part of a happy, nice family when we go to the club. Our heart belongs to it. It is good to know we will have a club life again,” Hoedl said.
Anyone wanting to join the club can visit kitchenerschwabenclub.com to obtain a membership application. A family membership costs $80 per year.
Due to current Covid regulations, the Schwaben Club is not hosing any in-person events. However it is providing take out dinners two Fridays a month as a club fundraiser. The first Friday of each month is Fish Fry Friday, and the third Friday of the month is Schnitzel Friday. To order take out meals call 519-742-7979 or visit kitchenerschwabenclub.com
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History of Schwaben people
The history of the Donauschwaben people, the ancestors of current club members, is full of happy and sad periods.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the countries known now as Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia were ruled by the often cruel Ottoman Empire, which controlled Southeastern Europe for more than 150 years. When the empire was finally defeated, settlers, farmers and craftsmen primarily from West German lands were encouraged to settle the land.
They traveled with barges eastward on the Danube River to reach the new land and settled along the river, hence becoming known as the Danube Swabians.
n the span of 200 years they made this area one of the most fruitful in Southeastern Europe. It was referred to as the “Breadbasket of Europe”. Many came to America at the end of the 19th century.
At the end of WWI, when the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was dissolved and the area was divided among Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia, many more came to Canada.
During the Second World War about 250,000 Danube Swabians were annihilated in the concentration camps of Tito. A further 100,000 Danube Swabians from Romania and Hungary were abducted to Russia for forced labour where many thousands died. Survivors were forced to flee or were expelled from their homeland as a result of advancing communism. Most sought refuge in the already overcrowded countries of Germany and Austria, where some of them still remain.
But for many Danube Swabians, the liberal immigration laws of Canada gave renewed hope and the opportunity to start anew. A large number settled in Southwestern Ontario, near Regina, Saskatchewan, and in British Columbia.
Schwaben Clubs were originally formed to assist newly immigrated people from Romania and Hungary who were sick or in need and who came to Canada after WWII. The clubs also supported German language schools, youth and sports groups, folk dancing groups and choirs in hope of preserving their language, songs, dances and customs.
There are four other Schwaben Clubs in Ontario -- one in Windsor, two in Toronto and one in Leamington.