Alfons Frencl (1946 – 2015)by Rob Wuchatsch, Kevin Zwar, Betty Huf
A great friend of Australian Wends
by Robert Wuchatsch
Alfons Frencl, passed away in Lusatia after a long illness on 27 October 2015, aged 68. Alfons Frencl (German: Frenzel) – a writer and poet – was a modern Wendish patriot who devoted his life to the maintenance and promotion of Wendish culture. Alfons and his wife Ursula lived at Rosenthal, north-west of Bautzen, near Kamenz. A school teacher for over 40 years, he taught History and English at Ralbitz for many years, until his retirement. In 2012, when I purchased a book by Alfons at the Domowina Bookshop in Bautzen, the sales lady very proudly exclaimed, “He was my teacher!”
For much of the last 25 years, Alfons had devoted his spare time and travels to researching and writing about Wends wherever he found them in the world. He visited Australia in 1990 to meet Australian Wends and study our Wendish settlements. He made many friends here and over the next 20 years he helped many Australian Wends during their visits to Lusatia. Kevin Zwar and I were two Australian Wends who have reason to be particularly grateful for Alfons’ hospitality. Kevin’s very personal recollections of his 1994 visit to Lusatia appear below.
When I visited Lusatia in 1992, Alfons invited me to stay and the next day drove me from Rosenthal to Werben, to visit the village of my Proposch ancestors. In 2008, he took me to Görlitz and other historic places, including the grave of one of his heroes, the Sorbian composer Korla Awgust Kocor, at Kittlitz. We met again in 2010 when my late wife Gaye and I enjoyed a wonderful meal with Alfons and Ursula at a terrace restaurant high above the River Spree at Bautzen.
For over 30 years Alfons edited Serbska Protyka, an Upper Lusatian Wendish yearbook. Alfons invited Kevin Zwar (1992) and both Ray Burger and myself (1993) to contribute articles about Wendish migration and settlement in Australia and published them in Serbska Protyka. In 2012 Alfons published an article about our Society’s 25th Anniversary.
Alfons also wrote many books about Wendish history, culture, migration and settlement. His 1996 book Serbske Puce Do Sweta (Wendish Ways Around The World) was the result of his research and travels around the world and much of this book was devoted to Wendish emigration and settlement in Australia. We offer our sincere sympathy to Ursula Frencl on the sad loss of Alfons.
A Dream Came True – over three days
by Kevin Zwar
Alfons Frencl stayed with us for a few days when he visited Australia in 1990, and he was delighted to see the blue skies and mountains covered with grey gum trees.
In 1994 Del and I had the privilege of staying with Alfons and Ursula Frencl for three days in Germany. For me it was the most exciting three days of my life. Alfons was an English teacher so we had no problems with languages. He was also fluent in Wendish, German and Polish.
On the Friday Alfons and Ursula took us for a boat ride in the Spreewald, a Wendish area of about 40 kilometres by 15 kilometres. There are no roads to travel on, but only seemingly endless canals between and around the farms. On the way there and home we called in on a variety of old Wendish churches, villages, and the lower Wendish ‘capital’ city of Cottbus.
Saturday in Poland
Early in the day we saw the impressive Wendish school at Milkel for German speaking students who wish to learn the Wendish language. We also saw a number of small lakes they call ‘fish ponds’. There are more fish ponds in the Wendish area than in the rest of Germany.
We entered Poland at Bad Muskau after a wait of 40 minutes. (The large trucks had to wait for 35 hours).
We visited the Klemzig Church from where Pastor Kavel led a large group of Lutherans to Australia. It was a sensational experience for Del and me. Alfons said I was probably the first person from the Western World to video the inside of this church. The church was 600 years old, made entirely of timber. It is not large inside, but the whole ceiling is covered with paintings and the rest of the church is an art experience.
We then visited five churches where Del’s or my ancestors had come from to Australia. Alfons would go down the street and ask in Polish who had a key to the church! Del played the old pipe organ in the Leitersdorf church where my Becker ancestors had worshipped. Alfons showed us an old Church at Sprey built only of wood – and no nails – where the altar was made in 1480. It was an exciting day that can’t be compared to any other day in our lives.
Alfons took us to a special Wendish church service in Luppa. It is the only time I have ever been in a church service in the Wendish language of my ancestors. And the service was taken by Pastor Albert, the pastor who, years earlier, when living under Communist rule, had searched out the letters in old Wendish newspapers from my Zwar ancestors in Australia. He had translated them from Wendish into German, and then posted them to me in Australia.
On the way home Alfons took us to the large cemetery of his church, where each grave is exactly the same, and each has the same white cross on it as a reminder that in death we are all equal. On Easter Sunday this year, 27th March, a white cross will be placed on Alfons’s grave and the Easter Horse Riders will ride round the cemetery three times.
For lunch, Ursula served us the entrée for a typical Wendish wedding breakfast: Soup, consisting of beef broth with noodles and vegetables, with egg squares in it.
In the afternoon Alfons took us to Radibor for an outdoor Wendish Festival. It began with a band leading a procession of 14 different Wendish groups through the little town square. Then we followed them down to an oval to a large outdoor stage. For several hours there was a programme of Wendish dancing, music, choirs and plays. The performance by the Bautzen Sorb Ensemble was professional and absolutely out of this world. The Ensemble had been touring around the world. I have never seen folk dancing like it.
With special thanks to Alfons, these three days were like a Wendish dream that truly happened.
Our Visit to Rosenthal in 2005
by Betty Huf
In 2005, Colin and I visited Alfons and Ursula Frencl at Rosenthal, where we spent an enjoyable afternoon discussing things Wendish. As a result, Alfons asked me to write short biographies about interesting Australian Wends for his yearbooks published in 2007 (James and June Nagorcka and their tractor manufacturing at Waltana, Tarrington) and 2008 (Peter Mirtschin and his work with snakes at Tanunda, both in the collection of snake venom and research into its medical applications).