A Journey to the Ancestral Home Country
Reise in die Heimat der Vorfahren
Kloetzel, Ruth. "A Journey to the Ancestral Home Country." Volk auf dem Weg, July 2008, 21.
This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
During May of this year, under the guidance of Prof. Michael M. Miller of North Dakota State University in Fargo, twenty-four German-Russians from the US and Canada set out on a journey to the home country of their ancestors, namely, the Black Sea region and Bessarabia.
By now Prof. Miller has organized and directed fourteen such trips to the old homeland and has thereby built a bridge between Ukraine, Germany and America.
Tour members trackng one's ancestors, at the national office of the Landsmannschaft Ruth Teitz DeNault, San Clemente, CA, Allean Mertz Boschee, Crookston, MN
and Julie Opp Burgum, Casselton, ND review the Odessa Trauerbuch book.
Of the Opp/Mertz family alone, seven persons, of three generations, participated in this year's tour. Their ancestors were from Glueckstal and Kassel, and the descendants had found a new home in Napoleon, ND.
Eduard Hust was only ten years old when he had to leave his home in Wiesental, Rohrbach in the Beresan region. In 1951 he and his family emigrated from Germany to Canada and settled in medicine Hat, Alberta. If it had been possible at the time, he informed me in a whisper, he would have made the trek back home on foot.
It would take much too long to go into the family history of each tour member. Suffice it to say that those not mentioned here by name have roots in such places as Kandel, Mannheim, Strassburg, Speyer, Grossliebental, Kassel, Hoffnungstal, Neudorf, Bergdorf, Hoffnungsburg, Peterstal, and Bessarabia, among other locales.
The whole tour group spent five days in Ukraine, mainly to visit the former German settlements of their ancestors.
The German villages of Elsass and Selz were founded in 1808. Both will therefore celebrate two hundred years of existence this year, Elsass on September 22, and Selz on September 21. At both places, efforts have begun to establish a museum. The organizers of these celebrations would surely enjoy seeing descendants of former residents make an appearance.
With very moving experiences under their belts, the tour group members then continued their journey, from Odessa to Stuttgart. There a trip to nearby Elsass was a fixed part of the plan. Ancestors from there had emigrated to Ukraine around 1800.
The tour was rounded out with a visit to the House of the Germans from Russia, the national headquarters of the /Landsmannschaft,/ where the guests were greeted with great cordiality, taken care of with refreshments and information, and received a guided tour of the building, with appropriate explanations.
The travelers from overseas were also welcomed at the Bessarabian-German Society. Following a tour of the museum and a group lunch, the traveling company undertook a city sightseeing tour and thus were able to gain multi-faceted impressions during that sunny summer day.
The group's final day in Stuttgart started with a half-day trip to the nearby Black Forest, to Hirsau via the charming town of Bad Liebenzell. A significant attraction for all was the ruin of the Benedictine cloister of Sts. Peter and Paul, a historical example of early architecture. The oldest witness to medieval cloister culture in Hirsau is the thousand-year-old Aurelius Church, a true gem that evoked much enthusiasm in its visitors. Following these unforgettable impressions, an ensuing stop at Weil in der Stadt and its medieval center and ancient city wall constituted a welcome parting bonus gift.
Happy and satisfied, we arrived back in Stuttgart. There was not much time for resting, for our Stuttgart choir, directed by Marina Bauer, had invited the country folk from overseas to a concert at the /Haus der Heimat/. After brief mutual introductions, everyone enjoyed a bountiful buffet. The evening, filled with music, singing and dancing, ended much too soon. We celebrated like a large family.
Our sincere thanks go to Prof. Miller, who about thirty years ago first looked up our Landsmannschaft and established many contacts and much collaboration between us and our country folk in the USA and in Canada. During difficult times he kept people informed about the difficulties involved with emigrating [from Russia]. Of special interest to him is the maintenance and preservation of the culture of the Germans from Russia. During the years he has built up an extensive library relating to our ethnic group, and he has supported many a student.
Taking a Look Across the Ocean
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.
Between July 29 and August 3, 2008, the first combined convention of the two largest American organizations for Germans from Russia, the "American Historical Society of Germans from Russia" and the "Germans from Russia Heritage Society," will be held in Casper in the US state of Wyoming.
One can be confident that the visitor will not only experience a new world, but also receive many stimulating ideas for the work of "countrymen and -women," with an emphasis on culture, history, and family research.
Casper is situated in the central Northwest of the US, halfway between the cowboy towns of Laramie and Cheyenne to the south and Yellowstone National Park to the west. Our people who may have been planning a trip to the US should definitely include a detour to Casper.
Alexander Rupp (Berlin): Tel.: 011-49-30-26552334;
Prof. Michael M. Miller (Fargo, ND, USA): Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu<mailto:Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu>
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael