Nicolae Benzar from Știuca

Nicolae Benzar is an ethnic Ukrainian teacher and headmaster of the school in the village of Știuca. The Ukrainians arrived in Banat from Maramureș. The first to arrive were the men, the woodcutters looking for work in the forests of Banat. They bought the houses of the Swabians, who had begun to leave for the cities, or even back to Germany. The first Ukrainian settled in Știuca in 1967. From then on, mass migration followed, lasting until the mid-1990s. They integrated quickly, and their industriousness and respect for the place they moved to made them be compared to the Swabians they somehow replaced. The Banyans lost the Swabians but gained the Ukrainians.

Easter is the most important holiday for Ukrainians. They are spiritual people, whose tradition blends Orthodox and Catholic influences. They are connected to the church. Mr. Benzar’s father, during the Communist era, bypassed the town hall, took it to other alleys, and went to mass. On the evening of the Resurrection, Ukrainians prepare a basket in which they put red eggs, pastry, wine, cheese and cake, then go to the church to consecrate the food.

The other important holiday is Harvest Day. On those autumn days, like the Germans, they raise a tree, brought by the village’s boys from the forest, preferably an oak, which is raised to music. They hold on to their traditions, and their language; they organize dances, festivals, and Ukrainian language competitions, but their identity, as they see it, is not strictly Ukrainian. It is more than that. “I’m not Ukrainian, I’m not Hungarian, I’m not Serbian. I’m a native of Banat!”