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 Germans from Russia
as an important part of the northern plains culture.
The Germans from Russia Heritage Society's July convention in Portland,
Oregon was a wonderful success. There were 605 registrations with
many new attendees from the Northwest. I met families who had left
the Dakotas to settle in Oregon and Washington.
My visit to Mount Angel Abbey and the Queen of Angels Monastery
at Mt. Angel near Portland was a rewarding experience. The Abbey
Library has established the Father Martin Senko Germans from Russia
Collection in his memory. There were many sons and daughters with
North Dakota roots who joined these Benedictine Monks and Sisters.
Debra Marquart, a native of rural Napoleon, ND, and an associate
professor of English at Iowa State University, Ames, has authored
an impressive new book, "The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild
in the Middle of Nowhere: A Memoir". From the earliest age,
Marquart knows she wanted out - out of the milking barn, out of
the nearly empty nest her farmhouse home had become once her four
older siblings move away, out of the harvests and the blizzards
and the long dusty summer days full of nothing but hard work. But
even after she got good at leaving, she kept coming back. It is
this process of flight - from both the landscape and the family
- and the return that Marquart writes about so exquisitely.
Whether Marquart is writing about her great-grandmother dying in
childbirth, Lawrence Welk's early days, the glaciers that shaped
her back yard, or her father's quiet struggle with heart disease,
Marquart's sense of the absurd and her graceful poeticism combine
to make "The Horizontal World" a captivating read.
Debra Marquart received the 2006 Joseph S. Height Literary Award
for her article in the March, 2005 issue of Heritage Review: "The
Most Famous Person from North Dakota - Lawrence Welk".
The Dakota Memories Oral History Project continues in 2006. Interviews
were conducted in May in the Linton/Strasburg/Venturia area; in
July at Rugby and Saskatchewan; and August in the Kulm/Lehr/Wishek
area of North Dakota. The 2005 interviews are available from GRHC
on DVD. They include 31 interviews, including more than 60 hours
of video. For more information, go to: library.ndsu.edu/grhc/dakotamemories/order/index.html.
Family names for these interviews include: Aberle, Boschee, Brosy,
Buck, Dewald, Dockter, Fercho, Fischer, Hartmann, Herman, Heyne,
Hoerter, Janke, Kasemen, Kauk, Kleingartner, Klundt, Long, Meidinger,
Mueller, Miller, Presler, Schaffer, Schlecht, Schott, and Zimmerman.
Sarah Lacher, NDSU history graduate student and interviewer, who
traveled to south central North Dakota this summer, stated: "The
Dakota Memories Oral History Project has been a wonderful learning
experience for me. Hearing and seeing each narrator's memories has
helped me to learn about my own heritage. Narrators may have been
shocked that I said the interview may be three hours, but once we
were rolling the memories kept pouring out, along with the occasional
shot of redeye. Needless to say, each narrator was extremely welcoming
to the videographer and me, often sharing German Russian lunches
with us. Each narrator helped me to learn more about what it would
have been like for my grandfather, dad, and uncle growing up near
Venturia, ND. I had an amazing experience in the Linton, Strasburg,
Kulm, Lehr, and Wishek area."
I am pleased to announce a new one-half hour documentary, "We'll
Meet Again in Heaven" funded by GRHC. The scholar and narrator
is Ronald Vossler, UND, Grand Forks. Vossler guides the viewer from
the small North Dakota town where he found the first letter, down
the "blood-dark corridor of ethnic history" to former
German villages in Ukraine and Moldova that were the source of numerous
immigrants to the American prairie frontier.
These wrenching personal letters, along with compelling, survivor
interviews, detail an odyssey of hunger and destruction in Soviet
Ukraine. Based on a decade of research, including on-location footage
in Ukraine and Moldova, this film draws upon hundreds of personal
letters, written from German villages in Ukraine to the Dakotas,
and brought in public attention for the first time. To order this
new documentary, contact GRHC.
The Festival of Germans from Russia, is October 13-15, at Leader,
Saskatchewan. The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia
Convention is June 11-16, 2007, Holiday Inn, Hays, KS (www.ahsgr.org);
the Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention is July 19-22,
2007, Ramkota Hotel, Bismarck, ND (www.grhs.org).
The dates in June, 2007 for the 13th Journey to the Homeland Tour
will be announced later.
For further information about Germans from Russia heritage, Dakota
Memories Oral History Project, donations to GRHC including books,
events, documentaries, CDs, DVDs, cookbooks and the May, 2007 tour,
contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND
58105-5599 (Tel: 701-231-8416; E-mail: email@example.com;
GRHC website: library.ndsu.edu/grhc).
September, 2006 column for North Dakota and South Dakota