In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller
The heritage of the Germans from Russia is an important part of
our northern plains culture. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
at the NDSU Libraries in Fargo reaches out to prairie families and
former Dakotans. In this month's column, we focus on our visit in
May by some of the Journey to the Homeland tour members to their
ancestral German villages near Odessa, Ukraine.
Cora Wolff Tschaekofske, Dickinson, and Her Sister Viola
Wolff Bertsch, Bowman, Formerly of Mercer County, Visit Moldova
"Coming in to the Odessa Airport was a nostalgic experience
-- the world that we were flying over looked like a huge, well laid
out, green garden. Stepping off the airplane into this beautiful
world that our father and his family left many years ago brought
tears to our eyes. What an emotional experience it was to realize
why our father often longed to return to this beautiful land which
had been his home.
"We toured the villages of our ancestors. We viewed expansive
fields lush crops. We were overwhelmed. We visualized small fields
farmed without modern machinery, which our parents now used in North
"To reminisce in village of Glueckstal, where our maternal
grandparents dwelled, near the Lutheran Church where we believe
they were married, was an unforgettable experience.
"How could we ever forget those people who repeatedly told
us of being uprooted from their homes, not only one but several
times -- in wretching deportation of leaving all their worldly goods,
of enduring extreme cold temperatures without adequate clothing,
and lack of food, as they labored like oxen for many years in Siberia.
Yet time and circumstance has allowed us to gather during this recent
May evening. They sang with us memorized hymns of their faith, singing
from memory every word despite no church worship for many decades.
They continually praised the Old God who never forgot them.
"We shared precious fruits of these villagers' labors --
home canned liver sausage, apricot jam, crisp dill pickles, and
we washed it all down with homemade grape wine much better than
the best champagne we have ever tasted."
Mayo Flegel of LeSeur, MN, Formerly of Kulm, Visits Bessarabia
"For many years, it was beyond my wildest dreams to visit
the homes of my ancestors. The touching encounters in the villages
of Kulm and Tarutino were particularly emotional for me. At Tarutino,
we inquired with a German speaking woman who remembered one of my
relatives, known to have left in 1940. In Kulm, I toured inside
the school and church where both my grandfather and great-grandfather
had attended. I also visited the Kulm cemetery where my ancestors
were buried. Though exact grave sites are known only to God, I was
awed to just be there. This was truly one of the highlights of my
Mary Lou Leintz Bueling of Wahpeton, a Mandan Native, Walks
the Streets Where Grandpa and Grandma Fergel Walked in Selz
"This is the expectant day that I had been waiting for such
a long time; yet, in no way was I prepared for the sentiment that
swept over me in Selz, as I walked the streets Grandpa and Grandma
Fergel walked, and viewed the once beautiful Church of the Assumption
in which they were married. The church is still magnificent, even
in its state of ruin. We imagined the spacious beauty as Antonina
Welk Ivanova explained where the altar had stood. However, when
she burst into 'Ave Maria,' we no longer needed to imagine how the
majestic architecture acoustically filled with beautiful music.
The front steps, which Paul Noel helped build and where in later
years he collapsed and died, are now gone. Only a mound of earth
remains as testimony of such steps of grandeur for community gathering.
"A grassy hillside with some rectangular sink holes surrender
the only proof of what was once the German cemetery in Selz -- not
a tombstone remains. A short distance away the Dneister River flows.
"Words cannot express how fortunate we are that our ancestors
emigrated from these lands when they did. This beautiful homeland
with its warm, friendly people, also provides uncertain political
hardships and suffering."
Choir of the Homeland Tours North Dakota
The choir from Stuttgart, Germany, performs in Jamestown (July
18), Streeter (July 20), Strasburg (July 22), Bismarck (July 23-24),
Dickinson (July 26), and Richardton (July 27). Many choir members
were born in the German villages of southern Ukraine and later deported
to Siberia. They have immigrated to Germany in recent years, yet
have kept important aspects of their ethnic heritage intact.
Information about Germans from Russia
We invite readers to share memories of their German-Russian heritage.
Customs, history and folklore appear at the Germans from Russia
Heritage Collection World Wide Web homepage at http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc.
Information about the NDSU Libraries' sponsored Journey to the Homeland
Tour for May 26-June 8, 1998, and the e-mail messages from tour
members of May, 1997, appear at the GRHC website. For additional
information, contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599,
Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Tel: 701-231-8416; E-mail: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu).