The Old Country
From the Old Country, Odessa, Russia to the New Country
By Bert Schall, Devils Lake, North Dakota
When Mother Schall or Grandma Schall was young in
her years, she and her sisters danced the night away. We didn't
know who all those guys were but they were good looking and also
good dancers. There were so many, also we were good looking, too.
When we got married, we didn't go out dancing anymore.
I stayed at home and raised a nice beautiful family, but once in
awhile my sisters came over and we went dancing. We just loved to
dance. My mother, Magdaline, was a good dancer, also. We had a good
mother and a good father. We got little older, but we were still
spry and so were my sisters!
"I cooked and baked," she said. "When my birthday
came I had a house full with my children and grandchildern. I also
baked Kuchen, Bluchenda, and made home made egg noodles," she also
Carolina Miller (Schall) and her sister, Annie Kirchofner
grew up in Odessa, Russia in an alien land. Magdaline Miller, Mother
Schall, Mother and Kathern Schoon and her son Johnny came to America.
Their father came also to escape the draft into the army service
Carolina, my mother, still remembers Odessa on the
Crimean Sea in Russia. In fact, its been 95 years since the sisters
came across on the Kaiser Wihelm # ship. It might be longer now.
"We used to raise grapes," mother said, "there were
stone wall around the house in Odessa to keep robbers out. Our houses
were built by hand. We took manure and mixed it with straw to dry
it out, then we cut it into chunks. After it was rolled even by
rollers dragged by horses, it was dried in the sun. It was used
to make the walls for our homes. The roofs were made from grass
found down by the water, and they never leaked. The homes were warm."
The floors of the old houses, she remembers, were
made of manure mixed with straw and covered with fine sand. The
blocks of cow manure were put into the stove for fuel to keep warm.
When we made bread you pushed it in the stove. Then all you had
to take out was the ashes.
The Russian government began demanding the Germans
to serve in the army. We sold our land, cattle and everything to
save money to come to America, otherwise, we probably never could
have come to America.
My mother's mother and her five children and her
husband took off for Bremen, Germany. My mother's father caught
a bad cold and took sick at the hospital and died, there. We just
didn't know what to do, so we had to leave my father there to get
buried. We didn't get to see him at all. It was very, very hard
to leave our father. We stayed in a hotel for 21 days and then we
all caught the ship, Kaiser Wilhelm #, for America. We came to New
York and got shipped out of there. We came to Rugby, North Dakota
on a train, in God's World. We didn't know where we were taken!!
Uncle Joe Volk, always wrote us about coming to America.
Otherwise, we would have never came. He said, "Come to this beautiful
land of America."
We, the young Miller girls, were not very happy.
We were scared and we weren't used to it. It was a very strange
country. We got to Rugby, North Dakota on the 8th of December 1909,
on a Holy Day, The Day of the Immaculate Conception.
We remember Rugby was just a town, there was nothing
in Rugby. The sister's remember the Jacobson store and a little
post office and also wooden sidewalks.
My sister Annie Kirchofner remembers the 30s were
the toughest years! In 1934 and 1935, it was so bad there was nothing
but thistles to feed the cattle. Wheat at that time brought a quarter
($0.25) a bushel and oats $0.08 per bushel. A dozen eggs brought
($0.05) a nickle.
We used to take a can of cream into town and it would
bring enough money to buy our clothes. The shoes were only $1.50
a pair then.
We sisters became American citizens at Rugby. We
took the test and passed it. They were't much for questions and
we had to have witnesses too. That was one thing they said that
was different from the way it is now.
The children used to listen better in the old country,
there was more respect for older people and for the priest. Now
days the 12 year olds are the boss. They have no respect for their
fathers and mothers at all they said.
The Miller girls miss the way everybody used to sing
all night on their birthdays, mostly in German.
Many, many things have changed in 95 years---it's
longer now, I'm sure. Since we came to America, many times we sister's
think back to our old country, Odessa.
I really don't know how my mother Magdaline Miller
made it here to Rugby alone with five children by herself. She must
have been a SAINT!!
The Miller sisters from the Old Country
From Chris Burkart
Home was a little town called Holdfast, Saskatchewan,
and there are many stories out of the early years and the Depression,
however the adults never discussed Russia in the presence of the
children. Now I feel the urgency of collecting as much information
as possible before all the elders die. I am finding that they don't
know very much either, unfortunately, as we are all the first generation
My sister Jenny and I are trying to put together
the stories remembered and also the names of all the immediate living
relatives so that we might be able to pass on the history of these
great people. I have found cousins I never knew existed, thank goodness.
I wouldn't be able to put much together without them. I am looking
for Burkart and Fuchs as immediate family, and then Noels, Frohlichs,
Sulsbach, Tuchscherer and Meier. After that it ranges into Trenkenschuh,
Essert and Bach (variations are Buck and Back. So little is known...
From Ronald J Vossler
In regard to Chris Burkart's comment, that Russia
was not mentioned in the presence of the children, I wonder what
other G-R descendants experience of that was. A couple of years
ago, as a guest panelist at a Writers' Conference, "The Literature
of Immigration", I related a similar anecdote my mother told me:
how the adults in her life then, the first decades of this century,
didn't speak of the old country in front of children; or, even more
intriguing, that they closed the door to the living room when they
did speak of the "old country" At least one noted American writer
on the panel with me made light of that fact--by noting that many
adults don't tell stories to their children about the country of
origin. Yet, there seems more to it than that. Shame from, at the
time, at least one world war against a German enemy? Wanting their
children to assimilate, to become Americans? The horrific famine
stories that they no doubt read about in their German newspapers?
Any response or "take" on this issue would be valuable. Is it generally
true that Ger-Rus didn't pass on much, directly, about the "old
country", as in my family?
From Louise Norton
Like all the other first generation Canadians, My
Father would not talk much about the old times and about the trip
over.. He did at one time tell me that the group of people he left
with did travel at night and holed up by day, much like the underground
railroad in the USA.He mentioned how they would draw for their position
in the line for that night as sometimes people would just dissapear
from the end of the line.. In his family, only 2 boys left for Canada,
one was refused as he had T.B and he went to Argentina,while Dad
landed in Winnipeg. He left behind 1o brothers and one sister..which
as far as I know he never heard from again...9 brothers were priests
and landed in Siberria and the rest we know nothing of. His Mother
and Father were murdered and their bodys were found,headless and
in the Volga,not far from home..wherever that was.
As a child we all had to promise Dad that we would
NEVER go back to Russia for any reason...no given reason for the
promice but one we have all honored until this day. I now wonder
why. It makes looking into ones own history so very difficult..I
would suspect like many others he was a draft dodger as well, but
he never mentioned it. How sad.