|Ron Vossler, center, with his grandmother's
cousin (in dark dress) and German neighbors in Gluckstal, Moldova
Vossler Meets Relatives While Researching in Former
Vossler, Ron. "Vossler
Meets Relatives While Researching in Former Soviet
Union." Wishek Star, 12 July 2000,
Recently, while doing research for a forthcoming documentary movie
on the Germans from Russia, Wishek native Ronald Vossler met and
spoke with two of his relatives still living in what was formerly
the Soviet Union.
Vossler, a senior lecturer in the English Department at the University
of North Dakota and a free-lance writer, is the author of two award-winning
documentary film scripts on the ethnic group: "Germans from Russia:
Children of the Steppe/Children of the Prairie" and "Schmeckfest:
Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia."
In the rural village of Glueckstal, in what is now the country
of Moldova, Vossler met Irma Augustina Martel. Irma's mother, Christina
Boschee Martel, was a cousin of Vossler's grandmother, Justina Boschee
Woehl, who lived in rural Wishek. The two sides of the Boschee family
were separated at the time of their immigration to America, but
kept contact through letters until the mid-1930s.
Speaking to Vossler in limited German dialect, Irma told of her
life in exile in the former Soviet Union, in Tadjikistan, near the
Chinese border, where her family of Germans living in Russia were
forcibly exiled during World War II. Irma's mother, who died in
Kazakstan at age 90, often spoke about the help they received during
the 1920s and 1930s from the Boschee relatives in the Dakotas.
It was this help that kept them alive during the hardest times,
during what is known as the "terror famine," Stalin's attempt to
break the back of independent Ukrainian farmers, including Germans
living in Russia at the time. Both of Irma's parents have numerous
relatives among the Heupels, Martells and Boschees living in the
Wishek area and throughout the Dakotas. In a recent car accident,
she lost both her husband and her son. She now waits to immigrate
to Germany to join her two siblings.
In Kassel, Ukraine, the ancestral village of the Boschees, Vossler
also met and interviewed, through an interpreter, Ramon Fedorovich
Kraemer. Kraemer was a cousin of Vossler's late step-grandmother,
Mary Kraemer Fetzer, who lived in the Wishek and Venturia areas.
An elderly man now, Kraemer fought in the Russian Army under Gen.
Chulkov and was wounded in the fight for Berlin during World War
II. Other than a few phrases, like "sitzen sie," Kraemer has lost
much of his ability to speak the old German dialect, mainly due
to lack of contact with German speakers in the past years. His ancestral
village, now populated by nationalities other than German, is several
hours by car from Odessa, the last half-hour on a rough, washboarded
Kraemer spoke of the forced grain requisitions during the collectivization
period in 1933, which caused so much death in Kassel. During that
time, he lost his teeth through malnutrition, but managed to survive,
partly on help from American relatives. He had various Kraemer uncles
who settled in the central Dakotas. His uncle, Jacob Kraemer, who
lived in the Linton area sent money for food.
Kraemer says his main worry now is trying to support himself and
his wife on a meager Army pension. With the continuing economic
woes in the Ukrainian economy, he worries about his future. Kraemer
is the last of the Kasselers, German settlers born and raised in
that village. His worst fear is that once he dies, there will not
be enough money to bury him in a wooden coffin.
Sponsored by the NDSU Libraries and Prairie Public Television,
Vossler's trip allowed him to conduct oral interviews, as well as
to gather research for future documentary projects.
Reprinted with permission of the Wishek Star.