South Australia’s new Wendish Pioneer Heritage Trail was launched last Saturday 1 September.
The first of six interpretive signs was officially unveiled by Marie Brazier at the Hope Valley Cemetery on Grand Junction Road. Her great great grandfather, homeopathic doctor, Johann Zwar had organised the migration of a large group of Wends to South Australia in 1851. President of the Wend/Sorb Society of South Australia Lyall Kupke also gave a short speech detailing the history of the Wendish people in Australia.
The Sorbs (known as Wends in Australia and the US) are a Slavic people living in Lusatia, a region in eastern Germany near the borders of Poland and the Czech Republic. They have their own language, culture and customs. The first Wendish families arrived in 1848 on the ship Victoria. Over the next 12 years, 400 other families joined them. Devoutly religious people, within two generations most the Wendish language and culture had been abandoned in Australia. This was because there was no Wendish pastor in Australia so the Wends joined the German Lutheran Church in worship and adopted their language. The trail attempts to commemorate South Australia’s Wendish heritage. Well known South Australians descended from Wendish migrants include former SA governor Sir Donald Dunstan (1923-2011) and recent gold medal winner in the 2012 Paralympic Games, cyclist Kieran Modra. Barossa businesses with Wendish roots include Laucke Flour Mills and Jenke Vineyards. In recent years there has been a revival of interest by many people in their Wendish heritage. Sorbian/Wendish societies have been formed in Adelaide and Melbourne.
The other signs in the series have been erected at South Australia’s main Wendish settlements at the Lutheran churches of Rosedale near Tanunda, Peters Hill, east of Riverton, and Ebenezer, Neukirch and St Kitts, north of Nuriootpa. The signs have been prepared by members of the Wend/Sorb Society of South Australia with financial assistance from Multicultural SA as well as through History SA’s South Australian History Fund grant 2011-12. A brochure and booklet to complement the trail are in preparation.
More photographs from the launch of the first two signs at Hope Valley cemetery and Rosedale Lutheran Church cemetery can be seen here.