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.
On Saturday, March 3, 2001, 9:30 am-11:30 am, the NDSU Libraries,
Prairie Public Broadcasting (www.prairiepublic.org)
and the Germans from Russia Cultural Preservation Foundation will host a special Germans from Russia program at the Civic Center
Library Theater, Scottsdale, AZ. Dr. LaVern "Vern" Freeh, author
of the book "Couldn't Be Better: The Russian Farm Community Project,"
will be the featured speaker. Dr. Freeh is a native of Harvey, ND,
and an NDSU graduate. The program is free and open to the general
The North Dakota Picnic will be on Sunday, March 4, 2001, at Pioneer
Park, Main Street, Mesa, AZ, from 10 am to 3 pm. The NDSU Libraries
will have information tables at the picnic. I look forwarding to
seeing many Dakotans at these events in Scottsdale and Mesa. We
invite you to join us for these Arizona events.
We are pleased to announce publication of the book, "Couldn't Be
Better: The Russian Farm Community Project: The Story of Two People,
One American, One Russian, and Their Dream for Rural Russia," written
by Dr. LaVern "Vern" Freeh. Dr. Freeh grew up on a farm near Harvey,
ND, during the Great Depression, the son of German-Russian parents.
Dr. Freeh is a graduate of NDSU and received his PhD. from Michigan
State University. He served for 12 years Vice President for Public
and International Affairs at Land O'Lakes. In his early career,
he taught in a one-room school and at Linton, ND, where he was the
The book traces the history of a project in which the author has
been involved in Russia, with joint efforts of U.S. and Russian
people, a model was created for privatizing and revitalizing rural
Russian communities following the collapse of Communism.
The author takes the reader behind the scenes to see how the project
came into being and how it has evolved. He highlights the role of
such prominent Americans as Armand Hammer and Robert Schuller. This
book is an outstanding review of what can happen when people put
aside their cultural and nationalistic differences and work together
for the common good of all.
The GRHC has recently published an important new book for the Germans
from Russia community: "The Germans at the Black Sea Between Bug
and Dniester," by John Philipps, Fallbrook, CA. The author writes:
"I wanted to raise the awareness in the descendants that their fathers
and forefathers were not unskilled sod busters, but rather diligent,
reverent, well-to-do farmers and they have reason to be proud of
their ancestors." Philipps vividly portrays historically, geographically
and statistically, the former German colonies of South Russia. John
Philipps was born in the village of Landau, Beresan District, today
near Odessa, Ukraine. His youth was overshadowed by poverty and
hunger even though he came from a well-to-do farming family. After
he had conquered many difficulties, Philipps arrived finally in
New York, in 1952. He moved to California in 1955, where he accepted
U.S. citizenship. John Philipps experienced Stalin's destructive
politics and after World War II, he came to America where he could
build a new home in a new homeland.
The NDSU Library, Fargo, features, the exhibit, "Germans from Russia
Wedding Traditions: From the Steppe of South Russia & Bessarabia
to the Dakota Prairies" at the new Marie Rudel Portner Germans from
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 this 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:
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."
For further information about donations to the collection, including
family histories, outreach programs, videotape documentaries, Journey
to the Homeland Tour (May 22 to June 4, 2001) for Odessa, Ukraine
and Stuttgart, Germany; North Dakota Biography Index"; German-Russian
cookbooks; GRHC's publications including recent books, "Couldn't
Be Better: The Russian Farm Community Project," "The Germans at
the Black Sea Between Bug and Dniester," "Fond 252," "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/gerrus).
January, 2001 column for North Dakota and South Dakota newspapers.