In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo
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. Holiday greetings
from the North Dakota State University campus.
GRHC has published its third new book by Ronald J. Vossler, freelance
writer and a faculty member at UND, Grand Forks: "Lost
Shawls and Pig Spleens: Folklore, Anecdotes, and Humor of the Germans
from Russia". The book is illustrated by Andrea Trenbeath
and Ron's son, Joshua, a graduate student at the University of Arizona.
The book is a companion to, "Not
Until the Combine is Paid and Other Jokes from the Oral Traditions
of the Germans from Russia in the Dakotas", published by
GRHC in 2001.
A good part of the book consists of examples of the everyday humor
of Germans from Russia including "ritual" greetings, quips,
proverbs, and retorts. This collection also includes narrative jokes,
complete with English translated punch-lines. This collection, which
gather remnants of fast disappearing oral traditions of the Germans
from Russia in the Dakotas, is not only fun and informative, but
also is a visual delight with the outstanding graphic images. There
is much in this book that will appeal to anyone who wants to learn
more about the folk beliefs, superstitions, and everyday humor of
the Germans from Russia ethnic group.
Prairie Public's "Prairie
Crosses, Prairie Voices: Iron Crosses of the Great Plains"
is receiving a terrific response from viewers. Be watching for this
third documentary of PPTV's Germans from Russia series on other
PBS stations in 2003.
Iron Crosses stand as sentinels on the prairie landscape, framed
by vast expanses of grass and sky. Though they stand silent, behind
each cross is a story. "Prairie
Crosses, Prairie Voices" evokes these stories: memories
of the Germans from Russia, a frugal and tenacious people whose
blacksmiths used wagon-wheel rims and scrap metal to fashion markers
for their dead.
"Prairie Crosses, Prairie Voices" explains the traditional
iron art form which crossed continents and oceans, also survived
famine and war - to be reborn on the Great Plains of North America.
Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz, writer and narrator, states; "The
wrought iron grave crosses of the German-Russians - with their unbroken
hearts of metal, brightly painted stars, endless circles, banner-waving
angels, exquisitely-formed lilies, and rose blossoms that rust but
never wilt - evoke the defiant spirit of their mortal makers."
The videotape, "Recipes
from Grandma's Kitchen: Germans from Russia Food Traditions &
Preparations", continues to be popular. The NDSU Libraries
and the Germans from Russia Cultural Preservation Foundation has
produced this videotape. Review the Foundation's mission and projects
GRHC has also published the book, "Johnny
Schmidt: Son of a Dakota Pioneer" by B.A. Bose. This is
a powerful memoir of growing up in a pioneering family in South
Dakota. The author shares stories of the early 1900s about blizzards,
country weddings, Christmas, Easter, drought years, cream separator,
farming, horsepower threshing, first automobiles and telephones,
and prairie fires.
Already in GRHC's fifth printing: "German
Food & Folkways: Heirloom Memories from Europe, South Russia
& the Great Plains", by Rose Marie Gueldner, Anamoose,
ND, is available at this website: library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/cookbooks/gueldner.html
or contact GRHC.
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), draw
much viewer interest. Each videotape includes bonus video footage
not shown in the one-hour documentary. To purchase these videotapes,
Next year's Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine and
Stuttgart, Germany has been announced for May 20 - June 2, 2003.
This tour includes visits to the former Bessarabian, Black Sea and
Crimean German villages in southern Ukraine near the Black Sea.
Dr. Harley Roth, San Jose, CA, writes of his May, 2002 tour experience:
"It was a great trip. A trip that will impact my life forever.
I made great friends, met wonderful people, ate great food, visited
the most interesting places, formed the most endearing memories,
and found my roots!"
If you wish to have your e-mail address added to the Black Sea
Mail List at internet to receive current announcements and news
from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, send me an e-mail
For further information about Germans from Russia heritage, donations
to the Collection including family histories, books, notecards,
videotapes, cookbooks, and tours, contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU
Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Tel: 701-231-8416;
GRHC website: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc).
January, 2003 column for North Dakota and South Dakota