In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (GRHC) at the NDSU
Libraries in Fargo reaches out to prairie families and former Dakotans.
In various ways, it affirms the heritage of the Germans from Russia
as an important part of the northern plains culture. The NDSU Library
opened on August 7 after being closed since June 20, due to the
major flash flood. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is
housed with the Institute for Regional Studies, now located at the
Technology & Skills Center located north of the Fargodome.
Our thanks to persons who assisted us in videotape documentary
filming by Prairie Public Television in July at Allan, Leader, Luseland,
Macklin, Regina, Scott and Tramping Lake, Saskatchewan. We were
warmly received by many of our German-Russian neighbors, while we
experienced breathtaking filming of the landscape, farms, fields
of grains, churches, and iron crosses in their cemeteries. The filming
in Saskatchewan was produced for two future documentaries on the
Germans from Russia to be released in 2001 and 2002. We were also
able to secure community history books and family histories to add
to our archives in the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.
Our days in Saskatchewan were a wonderful experience. I will never
In July, I traveled to Streeter, ND, to attend the 105th birthday
event for Matilda Schlenker Dockter. In September, 1994, I completed
an oral interview with Matilda which appears at the GRHC website
at "Oral History." Matilda was born in Kloestitz, Bessarabia, South
Russia, immigrating at age seven with her family to America. Matilda
remembers the 21-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean landing at
Ellis Island. When Matilda's family arrived in New York, the two
youngest children in the family died and were buried in New York.
The family traveled to Kulm, ND. The family grew up to include 13
children. Matilda born on July 31, 1895, has lived in three different
GRHC's traveling exhibit, "The Kempf Family: Germans from Russia
Weavers on the Dakota Prairies," continues to be shown at the Public
Library, Harvey, ND, until November 1. The NDSU Library, Fargo,
features until December 31, the exhibit, "Germans from Russia Wedding
Traditions: From the Steppe of South Russia & Bessarabia to the
The award-winning documentary videotapes "The Germans from Russia:
Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie" (1999), and "Schmeckfest:
Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia" (2000), continue to
be well received throughout North America. To secure the videotapes,
contact Prairie Public at 1-800-359-6900. The videotapes can also
be secured by going to the GRHC website at "Videotape Documentary
& Other Projects." The videotapes include 20-minute bonus video
footage, not shown in the one-hour documentary. See many interesting
pages about the documentary at the Prairie Public Broadcasting website:
"Schmeckfest" was shown in August on PBS stations in South Dakota,
Nebraska, Minneapolis, and PPTV.
Because of the interest developed from the "Schmeckfest" documentary,
additional cookbooks including German-Russian recipes have been
added to the GRHC web at the section, "Cookbooks."
A new book has been published: "Otto Mueller: A Life between Stalin
and Hitler" by Otto Mueller and Yvonne Schmidhauser (1999). Otto
Mueller shares: "The history of the Second World War has influenced
my life with such tremendous force." He was born in Ukraine in 1921.
His wit, keen mind and faith in God helped him outlive many life-threatening
situations. This book can be located at: library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/general/mueller.html.
In August at Barnes & Noble in Fargo, I attended an excellent
presentation by Elizabeth Walter, author of the book, "Barefoot
in the Rubble." The book is a difficult and challenging story of
Elizabeth's struggles in her childhood of her ethnic group - Donauschwaben
- surviving the detention camps, hunger, forced labor, destruction
of villages, and the attempt by a brutal Communist regime to erase
all ethnic Germans. Elizabeth Walter was named 1998 Woman of the
Year by the American Legion Auxiliary.
For further information about donations to the collection, including
family histories, outreach programs, videotape documentaries, Journey
to the Homeland Tour including Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany,
for May 22 to June 4, 2001; "North Dakota Biography Index;" the
book, "Otto Mueller: A Life between Stalin and Hitler," German-Russian
cookbooks; GRHC's publications including these new books, "Marienberg:
Fate of a Village," "Open Wound," and The Dark Abyss of Exile: A
Story of Survival;" and German-Russian heritage, contact Michael
M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Tel:
701-231-8416; E-mail: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu;
GRHC website: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc).