THE HISTORICAL BACKDROP TO BOPP/POPP FAMILY HISTORY
The story of our Bopp/Popp family must be set in the context of a much wider, and highly interesting, world history. The Popps were swept along several major migrations of German-speaking peoples over the past nearly 250 years.
In 1772, the Prussian king and the Russian and Austrian emperors began carving up the Kingdom of Poland, a much weaker political entity. As a result, Austria obtained the Crown Land of Galicia, with its capital in Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine). Emperor Josef II of Austria wanted to attract industrious German peasants and tradesmen to help transform Galicia into a more economically developed territory. In 1781 he issued a Patent of Liberties and Immigration, offering free agricultural land, buildings and implements, ten years of tax exemptions, and religious tolerance as inducements for new colonists to come in.
Germany was at this time a loose assortment of kingdoms, principalities, bishoprics, city-states and fiefdoms, loosely called the Holy Roman Empire. The Austrians were perhaps the dominant partner in the Holy Roman Empire, but that dominance was being contested (and would ultimately be overturned in 1866) by the Prussians. In the mid-18th century, however, our ancestors lived in the Rhineland Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) and Baden-Württemberg in what is now south-western Germany. Between 1782 and 1803, over 15,000 Germans from this region emigrated to the eastern province of Galiciain the Austrian Empire.
The Popps arrived in Galicia in 1784, where they initially settled in the newly established German twin colonies of Ugartsberg and Josefsberg. Josefsberg was named for the Austrian Emperor; Ugartsberg, for Galician Count Alois Ugarte. Later, some of the Popps moved to Baginsberg, a German village on the outskirts of Kolomea (now Kolomyja). And still later, members of the family moved into Bukowina, the Austrian province immediately south of Kolomea, and even into Bessarabia, the neighboring Russian province to the east of that. The Germans, while always a small minority in these eastern provinces, were prolific, resourceful and ambitious. They succeeded where many of their neighbours could not.
Above: The Protestant church at Josefsberg-Korosnica, Galicia, as it looks today with a Slavic dome on top of the old Gothic steeple.
Below: What remains today of the German cemetery at Ugartsberg,Galicia.
(Both photos by Jackie Riceman).
Within a century, with big families and the improvement of more modern health care and longevity, the population grew, and land for settlement expansion and industrial jobs was becoming extremely limited. Like so many of their neighbours, the Popps began to look to opportunities in North and South America. Our branch of the family seems to have turned mainly to western Canada and found a new homeland there. Unfortunately, though, the new home did not offer the same cohesive German settlement and encouragement of ethnic diversity. Within a generation they lost their native language and a large part of the cultural identity that had survived so long in eastern Europe, despite being surrounded by Slavic peoples.
The final big migration happened during World War II. When Nazi Germany invaded eastern Europe, they began a massive program to resettle the Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) back in Germany. When the German armies had to retreat from the advancing Russian troops, towards the end of the War, that withdrawal of German-speaking inhabitants was completed. It should be recalled that after the defeat of Germany and Austria in the First World War, their eastern territories were divided up along the dominant ethnic lines. Galicia became part of Poland, and Bukowina part of Romania after 1919. After World War II, south-eastern Galicia and northern Bukowina were split off and became part of the Soviet Ukraine. The German villages where our ancestors lived mostly remained intact until the resettlement program in the early 1940s. Now they have been taken over by Poles, Ukrainians, and Romanians. The churches have been converted to other denominations or torn down completely; their cemeteries have often suffered desecration or benign neglect.
To view the Table of Contents and Index to D’Arcy’s May 2017 Popp family history, please click here.