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.
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 by Sara Lacher (interviewer) and Jennifer Wilkie
(videographer), NDSU graduate history students, in south central
North Dakota. Family names for these interviews included: Bender,
Boschee, Dahl, Dobler, Eberle, Eckroth, Engelhart, Eslinger, Herr,
Glatt, Ketterling, Klein, Kraft, Kocher, Konrad, Mitzel, Presler,
Pressler, Rose, Sehn, Schell, Schumacher, Schwab, Schwahn, Vetter,
Wagner, Wald, Weber, Welder and Zimmerman. Lacher felt this project
was a gret learning experience, as "the memories kept pouring
out" during each interview.
Jessica Clark (interviewer) and Will Clark (videographer), NDSU
doctoral students, completed more than thirty-five interviews in
north-central North Dakota and Saskatchewan. The narrator family
names included: Axtman, Bertsch, Black, Boechler, Brossart, Degenstein,
Dukart, Ebach, Ell, Ferner, Frehlich, Herauf, Hoffart, Jahner, Johner,
Keen, Kohlman, Kraft, Krismer, Kuntz, Lang, Laturnus, Leippi, Miere,
Riehl, Rissling, Schall, Schneider, Sellinger, Senger, Westein,
and Zeiler. Jessica Clark recalls that "everyone was truly
excited about participating in this project. They welcomed us into
their homes with open arms, and candidly shared their memories of
growing up German Russian on the Northern Plains. They invited us
to eat some tasty German meals and partake in the occasional shot
of red eye or burnt whiskey."
For further information about the Dakota Memories Oral History Project,
go to library.ndsu.edu/grhc/dakotamemories/index.html, or
contact Jessica Clark at 701-231-8419; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 into public attention for the first time. To order this
new documentary, contact GRHC.
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 June, 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).
October, 2006 column for North Dakota and South Dakota