|Mother and son Travel to the Motherland
O'Dell, William D. "Mother and son Travel to the Motherland." Hazen Star, 26 April 2007, sec. 12A.
When most people say they are Germans from Russia, they have probably
never been to the area in Russia from which their ancestors emigrated.
For one mother and her son, that will change in a few months when
they tour Borodino, Ukraine.
homestead north of Hebron soon after arriving in the United
States in 1910.
Tyrone Hamby, 54, is no stranger to international travel as he
has been working in Afghanistan for the last two years as a security
consultant. After 22 years in the military intelligence in the U.S.
Army and 11 years in retirement, Tyrone decided to get back into
the fray by using his expertise to help bring the Afghanis military
“out of the Dark Ages” as the United States helps rebuild
Stationed in Kabul since July 2005, Tyrone made one trip to Ukraine
about this time last year. At the time, Tyrone had been invited to
Kiev by a friend who worked for the same contracting company but had
been stationed in Kiev. While on the vacation he was smitten by the
city and the area; however, he was even more smitten by Marina, a
professor of English at the University of Kiev.
Lillian, will soon see where her parents lived before emigrating
from the motherland of the Soviet Union in the country now known
Since that time, Marina and Tyrone have become engaged. As they
talked long distance throughout this last year, the subject came
up about bringing Tyrone’s mother, Lillian, over to Ukraine
to see the homeland of her parents.
Lillian, 72, is the youngest of 16 children of Johann and Elizabeth
Menge who emigrated from the Ukraine town of Borodino. Her oldest
brother Karl died in 2000 at the age 92 and was born in a town called
Borodino in 1908. One of her other siblings was born in the Ukraine;
however, the rest of her family was born in the United States.
“I thought it was a perfect opportunity,” he said about
his mother going over since she is in good health. He added it would
be relatively easy for him to meet her by flying up from Afghanistan.
Tyrone explained that he wanted his mother to be able to see where
her parents had been born and lived before emigrating. He added
that in western North Dakota of those people who claim German from
Russia heritage, about 80-90 percent of those people’s parents
or grandparents actually emigrated from Ukraine, which split from
the Soviet Union in 1991.
“A vast majority of the people who claim that heritage have
no idea where their heritage comes from,” Tyrone said. He added
that most Germans from Russia migrated from the Bessarabia region
|This photo of Johann and
Elizabeth Menge with their first child Carl was taken in Ukraine
prior to the family’s immigration.
Tyrone, a history buff with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history,
explained that in the late 1700s and early 1800s when Catherine
the Great was the Empress of Russia, the Russian monarchy started
to develop a homesteading area. Catherine was trying to develop
the large areas of Russia that were unpopulated and to increase
the economic viability of Russia.
As part of the enticement to immigrate to the modern Ukraine region,
the immigrants could keep their own language, communities and religion,
which was predominately Lutheran. However, as with the homesteading
that occurred in the Midwest in the last two centuries, the major
enticement was the free land.
Additionally, Catherine promised that any immigrant would be exempt
from military service for 100 years. But after that 100 years, the
big thing that pushed the immigrants out of the Ukraine was the
From the 1890s to right before World War I in about 1910, there
was a mass migration out of the Bessarabia area with many Germans
from Russia moving to the moving to the upper Midwest.
Part of the reason that most Germans from Russia immigrated to
the upper Midwest was that the terrain and weather was almost identical
to the area of Ukraine where the came from with prairies, high winds,
cropland and extremes in temperatures.
Many of the people who migrated wanted to go to the United States;
however, there were many who got on ships and wherever they landed,
they landed. Some of those other countries where they landed included
Brazil, Argentina and other parts of South America. And as with
immigrating to Russia, the big draw at the turn of the century was
the free land.
“Essentially the German heritage was erased from that part
of the world,” Tyrone said about the effects of the mass migration
out of the Bessarabia. He added that those who stayed had their
lands expropriated by the Communist regime toward the end of World
War I. “In order to survive you become part of the commune
… anyone who resisted, they were simply eliminated.”
Tyrone explained that the German army was welcomed into the Ukraine
during World War II. He said that newsreels showed the Ukrainians
throwing flowers to the Germans, because they thought they were
being liberated from the Communist and Stalin regime. When the German
Armies left, anyone of German heritage that remained left with them.
“So it’s not an opportunity to visit any relatives.
It’s just a chance to see where her parents were from,”
Tyrone said about Lillian’s visit to Borodino. He explained
that his family has always known what town they were from.
“Of the remaining family members, she’s probably the
only one capable of going and accomplishing this,” he added.
Tyrone explained that she will be the only one of the 16 Menge children
who would be able to do most of the walking that will be involved.
“This comes at a time when she needs to be doing other things
in her life,” Tyrone said about his mother. “I think
the more activities and things she can be involved with that’s
different than her normal routine is good for mental health.”
Tyrone, along with his fiancée, has been working on the
planning since January. He added that this would be a trip of firsts
from meeting Marina to traveling to Europe. While he is excited
that his mother will be able to see Ukraine, he made sure that Lillian
had a traveling companion, Lillian’s niece, to help her through
the customs process going out of and coming back into the United
“I would find it difficult knowing you have to go through
in custom,” he said. “It’s really a nightmare
trying to get back into the United States ... it won’t be
any easier but it will be less stressful for her.”
Additionally, Tyrone explained that it is very expensive to buy
anything in Europe since the American dollar is down against the
Euro. That will pose a problem since many things are now restricted
or banned in international flights.
Tyrone said that he has learned over a number of trips back an
forth from the United States that any kind of medication or toothpaste
or any other type of toiletries should be checked in your luggage.
He said that if it’s on your carry-on it’s liable to
be confiscated and you will be embarrassed for trying to put them
in your carry-on.
Lillian and her niece will fly out of Minneapolis in June to Kiev
through Amsterdam. They will spend a few days touring Kiev and will
then take the train south to Odessa for a day. At that point, they
will rent a car and drive about two hours to Borodino where her
parents came from. They will spend a day there and then take the
Tyrone added that the other good thing about going to Borodino
and Kiev will be that they have a built-in tour guide with his fiancée.
Reprinted with permission of the Hazen Star.