Trip Connects Bueling's Past to her Present
Grant, Barbara. "Trip
Connects Bueling's Past to her Present." Daily News, 16 July 1997, sec. A-6.
Mary Bueling displays some of the souvenirs
she brought back from the Ukraine, including the hand-painted
Matryoska Dolls which stack into each other and are a trademark
of the area.
For some people, an ideal vacation is to cruise on a luxury liner
or a week sunbathing on an exotic island. For Mary Bueling, a perfect
vacation is one that has a connection to her family roots.
The Wahpeton educator embarked on just such a trip at the end of
May. She participated in a "Journey to the Homeland" tour
of the Ukraine area of Russia, which was sponsored by North Dakota
State University May 17-31.
For Mary, who has been tracing her Russian-German family ancestry
for years, this was a dream come true. All four of her grandparents
had originated from the Ukraine, and since this area has opened
up to visitors after many years, she was anxious to take the opportunity
to learn more about her family's origins.
|Mary Lou Leintz Bueling by the Black Sea
near Odessa, Ukraine, May, 1997.
Encouraged by her husband, Lynn, she signed up for the trip last
November. She went alone, since Lynn's heritage is Scandinavian.
But she soon found kindred spirits on the trip who were also hoping
to trace their families histories.
The tour started at St. Petersburg, Russia, where the group saw
original art that had been collected by Catherine the Great. They
saw the Museum of Russian Art, with works dating back thousands
From St. Petersburg they traveled to Odessa in the Ukraine by Russia's
Aeroflot. Each day the group would go out to Ukrainian villages
of interest to them. Mary visited Selz, where her mother's parents,
Frank and Catherina (Baumstark) Fergel were from. She walked on
the street where her great-uncle had lived in 1940.
She learned that there were very few Germans in the villages. In
1940 most of them had been transported out to forced labor camps
in Siberia, where many of them had died.
| Church of the Assumption in Selz, Ukraine
(today Limanoske). Mary Lou Bueling's grandparents Frank Fergel
and Catherina Baumstark Fergel were married in this church in
1908. Circa May 23, 1997. Photo by Michael M. Miller, Fargo,
Mary had many memorable experiences in Selz, including seeing the
remains of the church (Church of the Assumption) where her grandparents
had been married.
She remembered her grandparents talking about that church. "I
could almost feel their presence."
She also visited Krasna, where her father's parents, Felix and
Braxada (Volk) Leintz, had lived. The old German school that her
grandparents had attended was still standing next to the new school
built in the 1950s. She went to the chapel in the new school and
found a list of "Leintz" family names from the 1940s.
However, she was unable to make a direct connection with her immediate
Mary, a learning disabilities instructor in Wahpeton, took pen
pal letters from the Wahpeton School to Krasna children. Third graders
through high school students had received letters from the Ukrainian
students, which were then interpreted here, and Mary had the privilege
of hand delivering the Wahpeton letters to children in Krasna. The
group also took much needed school supplies from this area, which
were very much appreciated.
| Old German school at Krasnoe, Ukraine (formerly
Krasna, Bessarabia). Grandparents Feliz Leintz and Brafada Volk
Leintz likely attended this school in Krasna. Circa May 26,
1997, Photo by Mary Lou Leintz Bueling, Wahpeton, ND.
Mary's grandparents had come to this country as teens or young
adults to escape the poverty and unrest they experienced in Russia.
Mary explained that the Germans had originally settled in the villages
in the early 1800s at the invitation of Catherine the Great. They
prospered for a time in their own settlements, unaffected at first
by the rest of Russia. But by the turn of the century they had lost
their right to govern and were requested to serve in wars. Their
farms were taken away from them; they were forced into collectivism,
and many started migrating either by choice or by force.
Mary has "dabbled" in genealogy for years. She became
interested when assigned to do a paper in high school on the topic
"Who We Were." So she began asking her grandfather for
information to research that paper. She is very grateful because
she was able to learn the name of the village her grandfather lived
in and when he came to the United States. "That was the spark
that got me going," she said.
The Bratan children of Krasna were very
excited about receiving pen pal letters from children in North
Dakota and the United States. Pictured from left to right:
Viktor Krestinov, Nickolai Bratan (2), Mrs. Natalya Bratan,
Alexander Bratan, Elena Bratan, Demitri Bratan, Eugeinia Bratan
and Svetlana Bratan. Circa May 29, 1997, Photo by Michael
M. Miller, Fargo, ND.
If it hadn't been for that experience, Mary fears much of the information
would have been lost forever. She said her grandparents had come
to North Dakota to start a new life, and didn't dwell on what they
had left behind. Mary's grandparents settled in the Brisbane, Shields,
and Raleigh area of North Dakota.
| Mary Lou Leintz Bueling presents school
supplies to the principal at Krasnoe, Ukraine. She receives
fresh flowers. The school supplies were donated by the children
in Wahpeton, ND. Circa May 26, 1996.
"They knew they'd never see their parents again, and they
didn't talk about it a lot." Letters they sent to their homeland
were not returned; efforts to send information or supplies failed,
and soon all contact was lost.
Through her research, Mary was able to obtain one precious picture
of her maternal grandmother in Russia. There are none of her dad's
family. "They're lost forever."
But the trip helped her reestablish those important family ties,
and she would like to return again sometime to strengthen the bond.
| Mary Lou Leintz Bueling visits with the
school librarian at Krasnoe, Krasna. Standing with American
flag is the school principal. Mary Lou teaches special education
in the Wahpeton Public Schools, Wahpeton, ND. Circa May 26,
The group also visited Stuttgart, Germany, where they visited museums
dedicated to preserving the history of what happened to the Germans
in Russia, expanding upon their knowledge of that time. Mary said
a documentary is also in the process of being developed surrounding
the "Journey to the Homeland" project which is spearheaded
by Michael Miller of NDSU.
For Mary, it was an educational, emotional and enriching experience.
"I felt like I had come full circle," she said, "connecting
the past to the present."
Reprinted with permission from the Daily News, Wahpeton,