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.
Gisela Schilling Keller, Fargo, has presented a major financial
gift to the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. The endowment
is given in memory of her late husband and is called, the Udo Gerhard
Keller zu Kellerrode Fund with the NDSU Development Foundation.
Udo and Gisela Keller and two children immigrated to the United
States from Germany in 1955. Gisela was employed at the NDSU Varsity
Mart from 1967 to 1994.
Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz, NDSU, writes, "The Kellers exemplify
the spirit of so many dedicated, hard-working immigrant Americans
who always intended to give more to this country than they ever
hoped to receive. NDSU and North Dakota are better, prouder places
because of the outstanding citizens like Udo and Gisela Keller."
Gisela and Udo helped the ethnic Germans in 1941 who were coming
from Bessarabia to Warthegau, Poland. Then in 1945, the Kellers
had to trek for safety into Germany with 73 covered wagons, mostly
German-Russians of Bessarabian and Black Sea Germans.
Gisela writes, "My husband volunteered in the resettlement
of these ethnic Germans, while I helped him by visiting and comforting
displaced families in an effort to lift their spirits. I empathized
with them very much, not knowing I would have a similar experience
four years later in 1945."
GRHC has published an important book that unfolds the tragic fate
of the Germans who stayed in south Russia (today Ukraine): the famine
and suffering which they experienced. Well Meet Again in Heaven:
Germans in the Soviet Union Write Their American Relatives: 1925
- 1937," authored by Ronald J. Vossler, shares a dramatic first-account
The book includes many letters translated from German to English
including these family names: Boschee, Dockter, Eckman, Feigert,
Goehring, Graf, Heupel, Hochhalter, Ketterling, Kirschmann. Kramer,
Lang, Morlock, Opp, Rudolf, Rueb, Schauer, Speidel, Stock, Veil
and Wanner. Vossler writes: The family names clearly show a direct
link, one of old love and also of family ties, between the Dakota
pioneers and those unfortunate family members who remained behind
GRHC has published the popular book, Not Until the Combine Is Paid
and Other Jokes: From the Oral Traditions of the Germans from Russia
in the Dakotas, by Ronald J. Vossler, illustrated by his son, Joshua
Vossler. In the Introduction, Vossler writes: This collection has
been culled from twenty years of my own personal journals and small
pocket notebooks. My hope is that readers will not only laugh, or
a least smile, at some of these; but that they also come away from
this small collection with a better sense of Germans from Russia,
and their descendants. Someone once told me that members of this
ethnic group had both a hard nature, and a strong faith in God.
To those two attributes, I hope readers of this collection might
add one other attribute - the strength of laughter.
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 include
20 minutes of bonus video footage, not shown in the one-hour documentary.
See many interesting pages about the documentaries at the Prairie
Public Broadcasting website: http://www.prairiepublic.org.
Reservations are now being taken for the Journey to the Homeland
Tour (26 May-7 June 2002). The tour will include Odessa, Ukraine
and the nearby former Bessarabian and Black Sea German villages;
Stuttgart, Germany, and Alsace, France.
For further information about donations to the Collection, including
family histories, outreach programs, videotape documentaries, Journey
to the Homeland Tour for Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany;
German-Russian cookbooks; GRHCs publications including recentbooks,
Ron Vosslers books; Streeter, ND book; The Germans by the Black
Sea Between Bug and Dniester Rivers; Marienberg: Fate of a Village,
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).