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.
I write this message from Wiesbaden, Germany following the Russlanddeutschen
Bundestreffen (large German-Russian gathering) on May 26. We were
busy at the Amerika Haus tables with many people searching for their
ancestors in USA and Canada.
Individuals shared difficult and emotional experiences about leaving
their German villages near Odessa, Ukraine. In 1945, they gathered
in Germany. They were then sent on trains to Siberia to work in
the forests and slave labor camps. In the 1950s, they re-settled
in Kazakhstan and other Soviet states. Since the late 1980s, more
than three million of these ethnic Germans have immigrated back
to Germany with many challenges of acceptance, assimilation, employment,
and language skills.
Attending this event, which is held every three years, is a lifetime
experience. The next gathering will be in 2010. The Journey to the
Homeland Tour group attended this gathering following their return
from Odessa, Ukraine and visiting the former German villages.
On May 12, Bob Dambach, director of television, Prairie Public
Broadcasting, and I attended the Ellis Island Medals of Honor event
in New York City sponsored by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
The program was held at Ellis Island to celebrate ethnic diversity
and pay tribute to outstanding American citizens. There were 100
Americans receiving this award including Arthur E. Flegel, Menlo
Park, CA, who was born at New Leipzig, ND. He was recognized for
his lifelong research, writing and contributions of his Germans
from Russia heritage. See photos of this event at: www.ndsu.edu/grhc/outreach/friends/.
While in Manhattan, we visited Thomas and Dorothy Hoobler, well-known
authors including The American Family Album Series. I assisted the
Hooblers with the book, "The German American Family Album"
published in 1996.
Prairie Public will broadcast a new radio series, “Voices
of the Heartland,” which is a collection of fascinating stories
collected by the Dakota Memories Oral History Project.
“Voices of the Heartland” will begin Monday, July 30
and air until October 8 every Monday (excluding Monday, August 27)
and Friday at 8:35 am, 3:55 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7:55 pm on Prairie
Radio broadcasts from Prairie Public Broadcasting are funded by
the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection and can be heard on
90.5 fm Bismarck, 89.9 fm Dickinson, 91.9 fm Fargo, 89.3 fm Grand
Forks, 91.5 fm Jamestown, 88.9 fm Minot, and 89.5 fm Williston.
The radio narratives will also be located on the Web at www.prairiepublic.org/radio.
The “Voices of the Heartland Radio Series” CD will be
available for purchase in the fall of 2007.
This summer the Dakota Memories Oral History Project begins its
third season of interviews. Cassie Ptacek, second team interviewer,
shared her thoughts on her first interviews for the project. "These
first interviews have been a fascinating experience for me. I have
especially enjoyed looking through photographs and hearing the stories
that go with them. I did not expect to feel so close to the people
I interviewed, but I did leave feeling almost like I was part of
their family." Cassie Ptacek and Tyler Simonson will be in
the Devils Lake/Rugby areas June 14 – June 23. Ptacek and
Simonson will also visit Dickinson/Richardton in August.
Jessica and Will Clark will conduct interviews in the Edgeley/Fredonia
and Bismarck/Mandan areas in July. To contact Jessica Clark (Coordinator)
call 701-231-8419 or email Jessica.Clark@ndsu.edu. Also, visit the
Dakota Memories Oral History Project on the web at www.ndsu.edu/grhc/dakotamemories.
The Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention is July 19-22,
2007, Ramkota Hotel, Bismarck, ND (www.grhs.org).
For further information about the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection, Dakota Memories Oral History Project, donations to GRHC
including books, events, documentaries, CDs, DVDs, cookbooks and
the tour, contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599,
Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Tel: 701-231-8416; Email: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu;
GRHC website: www.ndsu.edu/grhc).
June, 2007 column for North Dakota and South Dakota