Trip Forges German, American Ties
"Trip Forges German, American Ties." Jamestown Sun, 11 July 1994.
GRAND FORKS (AP) – When residents of the Black Sea port of
Odessa, Russia, celebrate its bicentennial this fall, they could
learn something about the Dakotas.
Photos and descriptions of German from Russia settlers in the United
States will join an exhibition about the ethnic Germans who helped
build Odessa, a city that still sparkles with beauty despite eight
decades of neglect.
The contributions came from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
at North Dakota State University, the outgrowth of a delegation’s
visit to the Ukraine and Germany in June.
The trip forged contacts between universities in Odessa and Fargo,
and built a foundation for future archival work that could benefit
Americans researching their roots in the Black Sea region.
It further opened the door for NDSU-sponsored trips to southern
Ukraine, homeland of many Germans from Russia. Early work is being
done on a tour for 1996 that also would include the German national
convention of the Society of Germans from Russia in Stuttgart.
“There’s considerable interest in North Dakota to visit
the ancestral villages of their parents, or for most North Dakotans,
it’s becoming their grandparents or even great-grandparents,”
said Michael Miller, bibliographer of the NDSU collection.
“I came away from Odessa thinking that it’s really
possible if everything can be worked out with various parties.”
Joining Miller on the trip were Shirley Fischer Arends, an Ashley
native who wrote, “The Central Dakota Germans: Their history,
language and culture,” and representatives of the East European
Institute of Munich, Germany.
Hosting the group was the Bavarian House, a German cultural and
educational center financed by the Bavarian government and Lutheran
Church. The Bavarian House is sponsoring the historical exhibit
in the conjunction with Odessa’s 200th anniversary.
In Stuttgart and other parts of Germany, the delegation was joined
by 10 other Americans – several originally from the Dakotas
– who are interested in genealogical studies. They participated
in events at the national Germans from Russia convention, and spoke
at other gatherings.
Key results of the trip:
Contacts with the state archives of Odessa: The archives contains
thousands of documents of interest to Germans from Russia, but like
many government institutions, money is short. “Rebirth,”
an ethnic German cultural group, has organized a genealogical research
service in conjunction with the archives. However, charges boarder
The archives offer great potential, Miller said, but it may prove
difficult to film the necessary records.
Contacts with the university: Exchanges and research projects are
possible with the institution in Odessa, which participates in an
exchange program with Eastern Washington State University in Cheney,
Several Odessa students also may conduct oral interviews of Germans
from Russia remaining in the Black Sea region. However, Miller said,
it’s apparent many would feel freer to speak after emigrating
Review of travel facilities: Even Odessa’s best hotels have
drawbacks, ranging from the smell of cat urine to a plethora of
prostitutes. Several members of the delegation stayed at a hotel
run by an enterprising German businessman, who converted a floor
of a rundown spa.
In Ukraine and Germany, a slide show Miller put together also introduced
viewers to the lives of Germans from Russia who settled in the Dakotas.
The show was a big hit, sparking comments of recognition with slides
of villages and cemeteries that bore the same name in Ukraine and
the United States.
Miller also spoke to thousands at the national convention in Stuttgart,
presenting a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol to the Germans
from Russia society. Rep. Toby Roth, R-Wis., a Strasburg, N.D.,
native, arranged the gift.
Reprinted with permission of the Jamestown Sun.