Journey to the Homeland: Germany and Ukraine
North Dakota State University Libraries Tours
7 June 1996
Warmest regards from Odessa, Ukraine.
From Michael M. Miller
at Odessa Polytechnical State University Computer Center
I arrived safely in Odessa on Wednesday, 5 June on the Austrian
Airlines flight from Vienna to Odessa. I was somewhat concerned
at the Odessa Airport because of the Ukrainian Customs but all was
OK. I have spoken to the Customs regarding the Ukraine School Supply
Project. At the airport, I was greeted by Odessa friends and the
Mosers from Tiraspol. The Mosers' son, Boris, returns to Tiraspol
on 15 June from San Francisco and the USA after one year of high
school studies. He was in Los Angeles on 1 June to speak to the
Germans from Russia Chapter.
Yesterday I visited the outdoor fruit and vegetable market near
the Chornoye More Hotel. There I saw many sellers of the new cherries
and garden vegetables. I remember the delicious red cherries from
my visit in June, 1994, but they are even better this time. They
are like the cherries that come from the state of Washington to
the Dakota markets in June.
Irena Klisz of Northwestern Travel Bureau has arrived in Odessa
and I have met with various people to prepare for the arrival of
Tour Group I on 9 June.
The temperatures reach the lower 80s so it is warm but comfortable
in Odessa. I already see many tourists including other Americans
at the hotel.
The final semester exams at the universities are taking place.
There is much anticipation within the German community in Odessa
for the arrival of the American Germans from Russia.
On Wednesday evening, I visited the Bavarian House. There was
a music program for the 3rd Anniversary of the Bavarian House. The
Ambassador of Germany from Kiev attended the event as well as many
other Germans living in Odessa. Tour Group I will be at the Bavarian
House for a reception and program the evening of Monday, 10 June.
On 9 June (Saturday) I plan to drive to some of the former Bessarabian
villages including Tarutino where there are ethnic Germans. They
want to present some items for the archives at the North Dakota
State University Libraries. We will return late Saturday.
I am also happy to report that our oral history interviewer, Igor,
has completed 10-15 interviews with Germans since my visit in December.
We will be reviewing future plans with interviews when Dr. Dona
Reeves-Marquardt arrives with Tour Group I after 9 June.
Our project of a global oral history interview program of ethnic
Germans has truly begun in Odessa. Igor tells me the people are
not always willing to express their feelings but when he mentions
this is for the archives of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
at North Dakota State University Libraries. They sense an interest
when they hear that Americans and a university are interested to
learn of the difficult life of Germans in Ukraine and in Russia.
Finally, Odessa is very green with many markets selling flowers.
The gardens already produce radishes and many other vegetables that
we will see in North Dakota gardens later in June. People visit
the Black Sea beaches with sunny temperatures.
I will share with you my experiences when I return from the Bessarabian
villages on Saturday evening.
Warmest of greetings to friends and colleagues.
Michael M. Miller from Odessa, Ukraine
11 June 1996 - 10:50 pm
After a 20 minute walk from the Chornoye More Hotel in the dark of
the Odessa night with few outdoor lights, four of us have arrived
at the Odessa Polytechnical State University Computer Center to share
their experiences. Those sharing brief messages include Connie (Schaffer)
Knight, St. Paul, MN; Dr. Lewis Marquardt, Buda, TX; and myself, Michael
Our Day in Odessa and Ukraine
Mike Miller has asked me to add a few words on the spur of the
moment and I wish only to emphasize the emotions felt on behalf
of the members upon seeing the old country for the first time. The
country reminds us of the Dakotas in many ways; the weather is hot,
and tomorrow members plan to visit their villages for the first
time. Members are excited and much has been seen to date. Odessa
is a formerly lovely city characterized by a shortage of cash but
not of spirit. The German Bavarian House presented a fine program
of music and pictures tonight of collected images they have gathered
regarding the former colonies as well as the city of Odessa. It
would be exciting to view many of these images in a final printed
form. Must sign off for our walk back to the hotel!
Tomorrow we go to the villages. You can feel the excitement of
the tour members as they prepare to walk the land where their ancestors
lived. I hope to locate the house in Kandel where my great-grandparents
(Andreas Schafer and Magdalena Zahn) lived. I believe the highlight
of the day will be presenting school supplies to the children in
the villages of Kandel and Selz. A greater bond is built when we
can contribute to the people who now live in our ancestors land.
And right before I closed up my school supplies box, my six year
old put in some of his toys to share with the children--another
way to share our ancestry and common bonds.
It is getting late in the evening so we will close and talk our
walk back to the hotel. We want to extend warmest regards to all
our friends in America and throughout the world from Odessa, Ukraine.
Tomorrow Bob Dambach of Prairie Public Television and I travel
with the group to the Beresan villages. Joining us with be Bishop
Joseph Werth of Siberia to visit for the first time his ancestral
villages of Karlsruhe and Landau [Beresan Enclave].
As Connie mentioned, there is truly much excitement of leaving
on Tuesday morning for the former ethnic German villages. We will
send our next message on e-mail on Wednesday, 13 June.....we will
share with you how we presented the school supplies to the Ukrainian
With best wishes from Odessa,
Michael M. Miller
12 June 1996
To walk in the village of Karlsruhe where my father lived and see
the church where he was baptized was a dream fulfilled.
Beresan Valley Colonies
Betty Baron Thatcher, Tigard, Oregon
(Betty is a native of Mandan, ND)
To have our pictures taken by the school that mother attended,
and spoke of with fond memories was a memorable experience of us.
Zita Dauenhauer Gieser ,Dickinson, ND
Rosemarie Dauenhauer Hoff, Denver, CO
(Zita and Rosemarie are natives of Richardton, ND)
To walk the ground and see the landscape and old churches and
schools where my father and mother where born and where all four
of my grandparents married and started their families is the highlight
of my trip. Actually seeing the villages of Landau and Katherinental
where my grandfathers lived until age 16 and leaving the land they
loved made my personal history more alive.
We brought many bags of school supplies from the children of North
Dakota to the children of these villages. This goodwill gesture
lets the people here know we still do care about the homeland of
Judith Doll, Fargo, ND
(Judith is formerly from New Salem ND and an elementary school teacher
Kutschurgan Village Visits
As tables and benches overflowing with wide-eyed children lined the
hot, sultry schoolroom, eleven descendants of Kutchurganers entered
with boxes and bags of school supplies. The children listened attentively
to the translator who carefully explained who we were and why we had
come to their village. They smiled and clutched the small gifts as
we distributed the paper, pencils, markers and other small treasures,
trying them out right away.
"From America?" One tiny boy asked in perfect English. They needed
so much more than we brought or ever could bring. New pictures and
maps for the walls, blackboards and chalk, enough tables and benches
for all of them to sit comfortably. The list would go on a long
way before we came to computers. But they were eager to learn and
asked us many questions, about ourselves, our families, how children
in America lived and studied...and why we had not brought any children
along! They wanted to play and speak with American children too.
They had picked cherries for us, and strawberries, and they had
baked us a cake. Some mothers stood around the wall, crowding through
the door with the teachers. One mother asked me, "Would you take
a picture of me and my child and send it to me?" She wrote her address.
Mothers know magic moments. It will be special for the family when
they receive the color photo from America.
Lewis and Dona-Reeves Marquardt, Buda, Texas
(Lew is a native of Linton, ND and Dona is a native of Colorado
- they both recently retired as professors at Southwest Texas State
University, San Marcos, TX, the Marquardts will also join Tour Group
II back in Odessa from 24 June to 1 July as well as Stuttgart for
17 June to 24 June 1996)
I have arrived at the Odessa State Polytechnical State University
with our Tourist Facilitator, Dr. Sergey Yelizarov, to prepare our
second e-mail messages to be sent back to America and throughout the
First, I want to say that all Tour Group I members are holding
up and in good health. Our medical doctor is at the hotel each evening
until late to check on each room and to anticipate any problems
for the next day.
The temperatures have become quite warm with temperatures in the
80s but humid since we are near the Black Sea. We are purchasing
each day many bottles of large non-gas water....the amount of water
taken to the villages with the buses is important.
The tour group members wish to express their warmest regards to
all their families and friends in the USA. Their expressions and
their stories when they return from village visits are most interesting
and deeply emotional.
Hiller Goehring of Lodi, CA, mentioned to me this evening upon
returning from the village of Glueckstal that he can now begin a
new chapter with all that he saw and experienced during his overnight
stay. He told me that he was in his 9th roll of film.
Tour members are carefully recording their photos each days for
archival and other uses later. We will speak more about this in
Bishop Joseph Werth joined the people today traveling to the Kutschurgan
villages including Selz, Strassburg, Kandel, Elsass, Baden, and
Mannheim. When they returned, Antonina Welk Ivanova was with them.
Antonina was interviewed this evening.
This evening some of the tour group members attended the Russian
ballet performance from Moscow at the Odessa Opera House.
It is getting late in the evening so please excuse any typing
errors....it will be a long walk back to the hotel.
More again soon......in another e-mail message, tour members will
tell their stories.
Good bye from Odessa, Ukraine....we look forward with much anticipation
to the arrival on Tuesday of Tour Group II in Stuttgart. Our Tour
Group I members will be glad when they have arrived in Stuttgart
on 17 June.
Michael M. Miller
13 June 1996
I joined the large bus traveling to the villages of Selz and Mannheim.
We brought Antonina Welk Ivanova home after an overnight stay at the
hotel for an oral history interview.
A Day in the Former German Villages near Odessa, Ukraine
On Friday we will visit the Odessa State Archives and the Odessa
Scientific Library. Both libraries contain valuable historical German
documents including the time of the German villages near Odessa.
On Friday evening, we will host our first Journey to the Homeland
Seminar for the city of Odessa and especially for the students and
faculty of Odessa State University and the other universities in
Odessa. Tour group members will participate sharing their experiences
as to why they came to Odessa and their interest to walk the streets
and visit the churches of their ancestors. We expect many university
students to attend. There has been much discussion and anticipation
as we prepare to host the Friday evening seminar at the hotel.
Another day has passed of our historic Journey to the Homeland
Now I will share with you, text from some of our tour group members.
Michael M. Miller
Our Visit to the German Villages in the Former Bessarabia......
The Bessarabian group was blessed to be able to return to the home
villages of our ancestors. We started our tour at the village of Sarata
which is the only church in Bessarabia that has been completely restored
to its pre 1940 condition with funds from the Bessarabian Germans
in Germany. The church was beautiful to say the least. From there
we went north to Borodino. Upon arrival we met a school teacher who
went and brought the principal of the school to use. She have us a
tour of the school built in 1840 which is still in use today. She
spoke in glowing terms about the former villagers who come from Germany.
They are in the process of building a new school with funds donated
from Germany. The village also has a small museum which has a section
on the Bessarabian Germans. We gave the school suplies to the principal
and two of the teachers. From Borodino, we moved on to Klostitz. The
church has been destroyed but the World War I memorial is still standing.
It was beautiful and marked with a cross. From Klostitz we went to
Beresina. The church is still standing but has been gutted and has
no roof. Even in this condition, it was still beautiful to behold.
We traveled on to Alt-Postal.
We were all struck how much Bessarabia looks like North Dakota.
The wheat fields and sunflowers made us feel very much at home.
We were also surprised to see such a great variety of animals. We
saw sheep, horses, cows, goats, geese, ducks, and donkeys. The list
could go on. We feel that in a short time, Ukraine has become like
a second homeland. As one Bessarabian said, "If Germany was our
Fatherland, then Russia is our Motherland".
(a native of Garrison, North Dakota)
Our Day in the Kutschurgan Villages......
Twelve descendants of Kutschurgan settlers and about a dozen other
members of the Journey to the Homeland tour group visited the Kutschurgan
Liman area. They returned to Selz specificially to see the grave site
of Bishop Zerr, a renowned and respected clergyman of the German-Russian
colonists. With the assistance of Antonina Welk Ivanova, who remembered
the small chapel behind the school near the now ruined and empty church,
the members held a brief prayer service lead by Bishop Joseph Werth
of Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia.
Bishop Werth blessed the area and offered a prayer for those buried
there as well as all others who have been persecuted unjustly.
The members travelled further and picknicked in the shade of the
former Mannheim church.
Our afternoon included visiting the villages of Franzeld, Grossliebental
and Klein Liebental. In Grossliebental we were able to see the interior
of the church. The former Grossliebental Lutheran church is now
used as a Russian Orothodox Church. The priest was most hospitable
and shared with us rare documents left in the church.
Ted Weisenburger of Phoenix visited Grossliebental where his father
was born. We tried to locate the house but it was likely destroyed
during WW II.
Zita Dauenhauer Gieser of Dickinson and her sister, Rosemarie
Dauenhauer Hoff of Denver, visited for the first time the village
of some of their ancestors in Franzfeld. Again we tried to locate
the cemetery but nothing remains.
Lew and Dona Reeves-Marquardt
Saturday, 15 June 1996
Messages from tour group members:
A day in Odessa and the former German villages
I was thrilled to walk in the streets of Grossliebental where
my grandparents walked and to see the church where they worshipped
even though it has now been converted into a Russian Orthodox Church,
and the old records have been taken to Germany by former residents
who have gone to Germany from exile in Siberia. The school my grandfather
attended is still being used as a school, but his house was destroyed
in World War II and another house has been built on the lot. At
the present time there are no Germans in their old village. In a
nearby village we found a family named Fetzer who have relatives
in the United States, but do not recall where. It was interesting
to visit with them. In another nearby village we found a German
family named Loewenstein. There are very few German families here
now and the records have either been taken to the archives in Odessa
or to Germany.
(born in Tuttle and finished high school in New Rockford, ND)
In Selz (today Limanskoe) [Kutschurgan Enclave], we were welcomed
in the Ukrainian custom with a loaf of bread and salt. The round
loaf of bread was a delight to behold with its designs of grape
clusters...a symbol of our forefathers who planted vineyards in
the Kutschurgan region. The German women in the village toiled many
hours in their meager kitchens to present us with a meal not to
be matched in any fancy restaurant.
We were treated with the German traditional foods of nudelsuppe,
knoepfle, rindfleisch and Kartoffeln; as well as a Ukrainian traditional
dessert - verenicke. And of course, no German meal is complete without
a wine - red wine and champagne from Kandel. As we enjoyed our food
and wine and sang familiar songs. I was reminded of the family gatherings
we once had years ago, and how our ancestors must have had similar
happy times and how the family is now so dispersed that such times
are few and far in between. Perhaps this reunion with our native
villages will help us rekindle that sense of family and community
when we return to our own families and "villages" in the United
Connie (Schaffer) Knight
(roots to Napoleon, ND)
It is Saturday evening at the Odessa State Polytechnical University
Computer Center. The weather changed from temperatures in the middle
and upper 80s to the 60s today (Saturday, 15 June). Some of the
tour group members went to visit the Liebental villages while others
visited the Beresan Catholic villages.
One of the interesting stories told at dinner this evening was
by Brother Placid Gross of Assumption Abbey at Richardton, ND. Placid
was finally able to get up close to the Russian red cow. He saw
the women coming from the village to milk their cows right in the
pasture. It was a sight he shall never forget. Brother Placid is
manager of the farm at Assumption Abbey with 300 beef cattle.
On Sunday, tour group members will attend church services. The
Bavarian House bus will pick up tour members to attend the Lutheran
German services at a location that is rented. Presently, there is
no Lutheran Church in Odessa.
Tour group members of the Catholic faith will attend Assumption
Church where they will attend Mass with Bishop Joseph Werth.
On Sunday afternoon, the bus heads to Alexanderhilf to visit the
German-Ukrainian Cultural Center. After our visit to Alexanderhilf,
we travel to Peterstal where we will have a special program. In
Peterstal, there is a resettlement location for Germans who have
returned from other parts of the former Soviet Union. The container
housing for some of the ethnic Germans will be interesting for the
tour group members to see.
The Bavarian House Choir of Odessa travels with the tour group
members on the bus to Peterstal for the program and a performance.
Our Journey to the Homeland Choir directed by Dr. Lewis Marquardt
will sing at the program. They have practiced at the hotel.
This will be an important visit for the tour group where they
meet their German-Russian brothers and sisters who have come from
Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
The Americans will present to the Bavarian House in Peterstal
and to the German resettlement a United States flag in commemoration
of the visit of Sunday, 16 June 1996.
Well I must close since it is now past 10 pm in Odessa and we
are thankful to Dr. Sergey Yelizarov, Tourist Facilitator, and Sergey
Kravchenko, a Russian ethnic student, who is manning the computer
room to allow us to complete e-mail.
Finally, our tour members provide us with wonderful stories of
their visits to the villages. Hundreds of photos are being taken
as well as much filming by Bob Dambach, Producer at Prairie Public
Television of North Dakota.
We will write more on e-mail after our visit to Peterstal on Sunday
evening or on Monday morning before we leave on the afternoon flight
via Austrian Airlines for Vienna and Stuttgart, Germany.
With best regards from Odessa,
Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University, Fargo
(a native of Strasburg, ND)
Monday, 17 June 1996
Tour group members are now visiting important sites in Odessa before
they prepare to leave Odessa today at 5:30 pm on the Austrian Airlines
flight to Vienna, Austria. The tour members look forward to landing
in Germany and being in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Stuttgart. The Beer
Garden at the Holiday Inn Garden Court where we will stay in Stuttgart
should be a popular place on Monday evening. I might add that the
Ukrainian beer has been most refreshing to the tour members and well
Preparing to Leave Odessa, Ukraine for Vienna and Stuttgart.....
On Sunday evening, tour group members told about their experiences
visiting the land of their forefathers and meeting the wonderful
I was deeply impressed and moved by the stories they expressed.
Our tour to Odessa and the villages has been well received by all.
They have developed loving friendships with students, translators,
and tour guides.
On Sunday, members of the tour of the Lutheran and Protestant
faith traveled with the Bavarian House bus to the local church services.
Rev. Theodore Rath of Rock Lake, ND, visited with the Lutheran pastor
temporarily staying in Odessa. For all it was a rewarding experience
to hear German songs and be with ethnic Germans.
Sunday morning services at the Assumption Abbey Catholic Church
included a special Mass with Bishop Joseph Werth. He prepared an
important message he delivered in Russian and in German telling
about Bishop Kessler, Bishop Zerr and the Catholic Church in Odessa
and the nearby villages. We hope to translate his text to English
The tour group members sang two songs--one in English and one
in German. Along with the tour group members, we shall never forget
the warmth of the parish members and the excellent choir.
On Sunday afternoon, 16 June, tour group members traveled to Peterstal
where they saw the German container settlement built with Ukrainian
funds. There we met primarily Volga and Crimean Germans who have
all returned from Kazakhstan.
In Peterstal, the Bavarian House Choir performed outstanding music.
Later the choir performed with Americans singing in German and in
We presented American flags to the mayor of Peterstal and to the
Bavarian House Choir. There were many children in attendance so
we presented a large box of school supplies. Judith Doll, a 4th
grade teacher at Washington Elementary in Fargo, talked to a local
grade school teacher about beginning a classroom to classroom pen-pal
When we return with Tour Group II on 24 June, we plan to bring
much needed school supplies to the Germans in the Peterstal settlement
containers or very small living quarters. However good housing is
being built for them at this time.
In Peterstal we also visited a new bakery opened by an ethnic
German. There we were served refreshments and German beer. We plan
to bring Tour Group II members back to the bakery for lunch with
fresh bread and kuchen on Sunday, 30 June along with delicious homemade
Finally, all on the tour are in good health.
Michael M. Miller
NDSU Libraries, Fargo
Let me share with you some of their stories:
This Kutschurgan member has just returned from a visit to the
Beresan colonies. The differences between the two are striking.
Beresan is remote, Kutschurgan is nearby; Beresan had more cattle
(on first impressions), the Kutschurgan had more vineyards. But
no matter where we visited, both the Ukrainian people and the German
people were warm, friendly, and willing to tell us their stories.
The Journey to the Homeland trip is a tremendous success!
We were fortunate to make a return trip to the Beresan Valley.
In Karlsruhe, we met a woman who lived in one of the German houses
near the St. Peter and Paul Church. She was extremely hospitable
and invited us in to see her home. The openness of the residents
continues to amaze us and make me happy to know our ancestral homes
are being cared for with so much pride.
Betty Baron Thatcher
(a native of Mandan, North Dakota)
We also discovered an old German cemetery in Kathariental. Although
much of the once large cemetery was demolished and covered with
plant overgrowth, we found some metal crosses, monument bases, and
a few crosses and monuments with text. Excited we were but also
a feeling of awed reverence pervaded among the group. None of us
found an ancestral burial site, yet to be standing among the spirit
of courage, strength and faith has made a lasting impression on
Fargo, North Dakota
(a native of New Salem, North Dakota)
25 June 1996
On the final flight into Odessa I thought of the exhausting trip our
group was making to visit the homeland of our ancestors. How could
I begin to compare it with what our ancestors did to emigrate from
Germany to Russia to the USA? The fortitude they had is astonishing!
Hopefully I will be able to capture some of the spirit they had.
To have arrived in Odessa, the city where my mother told me that
my grandfather sold his wheat, is a dream come true. It is only
the end of the first day and we have already walked the streets
of the old part of the city going in and out of building after building
that must have been very familiar to many of our ancestors. To top
it off we have seen a first-rate opera in Ukrainian at the famous
Odessa Opera House about which it is said that unless one has done
so one has not really been to Odessa.
My Grandfather Fetzer often spoke about the Black Sea and Odessa,
near where he was born (the German village of Neuberg) with such
longing in his old age--and for me now to visit this place, where
I always felt he'd left his childhood, and to see some of what he
must have seen when he visited this city with his own father, I
can understand more clearly why he felt such longing. It seems important
to me, an act of piety and remembering, to connect that old man
in his small clapboard house in the tiny plains town of Wishek,
North Dakota, with this bustling, cosmopolitan city.
For the Hausauer family, out of Jamestown, North Dakota, the first
leg of the NDSU sponsored "Journey to the Homeland" Tour was a productive
one: the Hausauers met, on a bus trip to their ancestral village
of Cleebourg France, one of their relatives, Louisa Hausauer, with
whom they easily communicated in the same German dialect that the
Hausauer family spoke in Jamestown, North Dakota.
Later, in Stuttgart, the Hausauer's attended the "Bundestreffen",
a gathering of well over 50,000 ethnic Germans who have returned
to Germany from their war time diaspora in Siberia and Kazakhstan,
and other parts of the Soviet Empire. There, the Hausauers, who
felt it would be nice if even one of their relatives showed, were,
as they put it, "grinning a lot" after meeting a group of forty
relatives, "Ansiedlers", returning to Germany from their wartime
The Hausauers, as part of Tour Group 2, consisting of at least
forty five members, continued on to Odessa, Ukraine. They are currently
touring the city and are preparing to visit the Glueckstal Colonies,
where Albert Hausauer's father, who later emigrated to America,
was born to ethnic Germans who settled the Ukrainian frontier in
the early part of the nineteenth century.
In the morning of June 27, the tour group members are traveling
by van and bus to various ancestral villages in the Bessarabia,
Beresan, Glueckstal, and Liebental enclaves--a journey that many
tour members have been yearning to make for years: returning to
walk the streets of the villages where their ancestors lived, to
ponder that unique history of one of America's most overlooked ethnic
27 June 1996
It is Thursday and we are just completing our tour of the Glueckstal
enclave--except for Kassel. Having stayed overnight in Glueckstal
itself we are making our way back to Odessa by way of visits to Neudorf
and Bergdorf. Our tour bus is filled with thirty-two persons including
twenty-six Glueckstallers with roots to the Dakotas. I was privileged
to join this interesting group of people including Ukrainians and
Moldovans, who acted as guides and interpreters.
Yesterday we traveled from Odessa to the former village of Sofiental
now called Novosamarka. In Novosamarka the bus stopped at the school
where we were greeted by Ukrainian children and presented with the
traditional Ukrainian greeting bread called karavai. This was followed
by a program of music first by talented children and then by a near-professional
women's choir. The mayor of Sofiental welcomed the American delegation
in a traditional ceremony, which was attended by large audience
of local people. The school supplies were then presented to the
Sofiental school. The visit ended with a delicious lunch consisting
of traditional Ukrainian foods, many of which, such as the cabbage
rolls, have been familiar to us from childhood.
One of the Ukrainians who joined us, Pavel Pratchuk, is a student
of history at Odessa University. During the trip he commented to
us through an interpreter, as follows: "I am writing an article
for a local Ukrainian newspaper called--Sophiental's Past and Future--which
will tell the history of the former German-Russian village. It will
be a story about the descendants of the German Russians who lived
in this village and also in nearby villages once.
"Traveling with the American tour for two days in the German-Russian
villages I have learned a little more about Americans. I have found
out that they are very well organized as a group, but at the same
time are strong as individuals. It surprised me that Americans seem
to be interested in everything they see. I also noticed that they
are "crazy" in their own way, but overall they are very friendly
"As part of the job we made new contacts, and have learned more
about how to get tour groups out to the German-Russian villages.
We have made considerable progress for developing future tours."
Friday morning, 28 June 1996
Tour group members are visiting the Odessa State Archives to review
the genealogical resources. For many it is a "dream come true" to
see the original documents of their German ancestors. Others go
shopping and this afternoon we visit the historic Odessa Scientific
Library where there are German newspapers and many other German
books. In tour group one, I presented an American flag to the group.
Later this afternoon we prepare for the Journey to the Homeland
Seminar where many university students from Odessa will attend.
On Saturday some of the tour group members will travel to other
Michael M. Miller
Fargo, North Dakota
2 July 1996
They visited Friedenstal, Bessarabia, now known as Mirnopolje, Ukraine,
today, the former village of their ancestors. This tour was sponsored
by North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota. Accompanying
the group was Dave Geck, videographer for Prairie Public Television.
During their visit in Friedenstal, they located the homes of their
ancestors. They were spontaneously invited into the former Maier
home, where Marge's great, great grandmother lived. It was also
the birth home of her great grandfather, Johann Maier, who left
for America in 1888, with two children. A 4 year old daughter, her
grandmother , Maria, and a two year old brother. They enjoyed homemade
wine, roast goose, batter dipped fried zucchini, and pork fat. A
warm toast to our ancestors and to our hosts, of love and friendship,
brought all of our raised glasses together.
The group discovered the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Friedenstal
was completely destroyed including the cemetery of the people that
settled this village in 1834. It was also discovered that the gravestones
of this early cemetery were removed and utilized as building material
for supporting walls on a road project near the village. Inscriptions
on some grave stones are visible, which was a sad experience of
the tour members to find these ledgers of early Friedenstal residents
to be used for this purpose.
Donated school supplies, from older adult education students in
Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Danville And Hayward, were presented
to the school director, by Jergentz-Stout, Stadel and Iszler. These
supplies were greatly appreciated since a great need exists in the
country for school and medical supplies.
Marge Jergentz-Stout of Livermore, CA, Edwin Iszler from Streeter,
North Dakota, and Emil Jakob Stadel formerly of Dawson, North Dakota,
There have been so many wonderful experiences on this trip, it
is difficult to select a particular highlight. However, yesterday
I had a very emotionally moving experience in Speyer when I was
able to attend a religious service in the same church that four
generations of my family (surname Geiger)had worshipped in. It was
here that they were baptized, confirmed, married and died. The church
is no longer Catholic and is now a Russian Orthodox church. I was
delighted that the church was again being used as a house of worship
and not a community hall or storage place... The priest not only
graciously invited me in to photograph the church and services he
gave me a special blessing and presented me with an icon. Prior
to going to Speyer we stopped in the village of Landau--the village
of my father's mother, grandparents and great-grandparents.(surname
Schafer) We stopped for a picnic lunch in the hills above Landau
with a view of Speyer in the distance--it was very heart warming
to look down upon two of the towns from which so many of my loved
My grandmother on my mother's side (Voegele) was from Glueckstal.
I was able to spend an evening and stay overnight there, My grandmother
had told me so many stories and they really came to life there.
I was overwhelmed by the memories she had related to me as they
came to life before my eyes. And now I am looking forward to returning
home and sharing my adventures with my many dear relatives who could
not be on this trip in person but who were here in spirit.
Barbara Horn, Alta Loma, California
We have had much that is spectacular this last week. So many things
were unique that it is difficult to sort out the activities and
Our tour to the Glueckstal villages was treated to one charming
pastoral scene after another. Chickens ducks, and geese roamed freely,
with the ducks and geese seemed particularly pleased that there
had been a rain and the puddles were numerous. Horse drawn carts
were hauling small amounts of feed for the animals, and a foal was
learning to walk with its mother (instead of in front of her) as
the mother was working and pulling a cart. All of this was especially
vivid for me in Glueckstal itself where we stopped first, but much
in evidence in all villages of the Glueckstal group.
People in the villages were generous and invited us into their
homes, offering to prepare food for us, which they often did. In
Bergdorf, we visited the ancestral church which had been much remodeled,
and currently in use as a social hall. I particularly enjoyed finding
the old balustrades in the upper balcony, about the only things
that had not been changed. My grandparents had been married there,
and several of their babies had been buried from there. I felt their
presence very strongly.
One of the high points for me was seeing the church in Kassel.
It was a magnificent structure, now in ruins. The Millers saw this
church in 1978 when it was being used as a dance hall, and could
not believe what has happened to it in sixteen years. There was
still a remnant of a ceiling in the back of the church, and there
were birds painted on it. (Were they storks? Near Kassel there were
many storks on a lake, a delightful sight.) Thinking to save one
of the painted birds, we picked up a piece of the plaster from the
floor with a picture of a bird on it, but we found that the painting
was only whitewash that rubbed off, and the entire piece would have
disintegrated before it reached our hotel, so there was no need
to take a remembrance.
What made being in this church special for me was that there was
enough left of the building to see what a magnificent structure
this church had been. What an effort and sacrifice it must have
been for our ancestors to build such a building, just like others
in each of the four main villages. However, time and no maintenance
had done its job. For me it was closure, as I knew how very well
our families had lived there when the village was beautiful. Their
quality of life must have been very good. However, this period of
our family activities is certainly now a piece of history, just
like the church building. It would be wonderful if more of our friends
and families with roots in these villages would have the opportunity
to drive through and visit this country which is so much like our
Dakota prairies. The week has been very full, but a very good experience.
Margaret Freeman, Redondo Beach , California
On Wednesday, June 26, we traveled to the Beresan villages. The
landscape of gently rolling wheat and sunflower fields reminded
us of ND. Our first stop was Karlsruhe where we viewed the German
and abandoned Catholic Church. In Landau, we photographed German
houses, horse drawn carts, the church which now houses machinery,
and the abandoned German school. While Bob Dambach filmed
the noon milking near Katheriental village dam, Tom Martin
took advantage of an offer to learn the fine art of milking.
The people are very friendly. Aggie Madison and Rose Wood
showed a map of where their ancestors' house was located. The
house was found, and the gracious widow who now lives there invited
us in. Rose and Aggie, along with their daughters Joyce
and Bettsy, are grateful to have had this opportunity to
stand in the home of their ancestors. In Guldendorf, we
searched the cemetery where a few German headstones still
stood for the grave sites of Sandi Henry-Choppin' great-grandparents
and Tom Martin's grandparents. Although we could not find
the graves, Tom and Sandi were able to say hello and good-bye to
their ancestors. Journey to the Homeland has been a fabulous
experience. We all highly recommend this rewarding tour.
Bettsy Williams, Missoula, Montana
Penny Raile and I went to Hoffnungstal, Odessa on Friday. We were
fortunate to meet Anna Bamesberger who was born in Hoffnungstal.
Anna took us on a tour of Hoffnungstal including the cemetery.
The cemetery is now a pasture but there were a few tombstones
that were readable.
Copies of the inscriptions we could read are as follows:
Johann Henrich Bamesberger born 14 April 1873
died 14 Juni 1907
Gottlieb Metzger born 16 --- 1869
died 25 Dec 1903
Christoph Fischer born 5 Nov 1831
died 16 Dec 1901
Eva Krause geb. Keller
born 12 Aug 1831
died 12 Jul 1877
Christian Friedrich Metzger
born 17 May 1827
died 28 Jan 1894
born 19 Nov 1835
died 5 Oct 1891
Harold Ehrmann, Pacific Palisades
I shall never forget Sunday evening when each tour group member
reminisced about their unforgettable experiences visiting their
ancestral villages, about their friendships with the Ukrainian people,
and how they presented the gifts of school supplies to the Ukrainian
children and teachers.
Personally it was a rewarding experience to hear how pleased they
were with the tour and how they will share their memories with their
family and friends back home in America. We recorded on cassette
tape and on video with the help of the staff from Prairie Public
Bob Dambach, producer and director at Prairie Public Television
of North Dakota, explained that more than sixty hours of filming
had been done as of the 30 of June for both tours. Much of the footage
was some of the finest PPTV had every filmed for a documentary.
To realize the potential of the future documentary we are going
to need the support of the German Russian community in North America,
the listserve subscribers and the tour group members. More will
be explained on the listserve and in a future WWW home page.
It was privilege and an honor to lead both tour groups to visit
the homeland of their ancestors. I found tour group members to be
well educated and well prepared for the tour. I learned much for
future tours as we prepare for the 1997 tours in May and in late
August or September. More information to follow. Persons interested
in joining the 1997 tours should contact or e-mail to Michael M.
Miller, Journey to the Homeland Tours, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599,
Fargo, North Dakota 58105-5599. (e-mail: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu)
Finally, I want to thank the many subscribers who sent us their
best wishes and hopes for a safe and memorable journey. My thanks
to the newspaper writers who read these messages and prepared articles.
My thanks to the NDSU Libraries for the opportunity to a part of
the Journey to the Homeland. Thank you Prairie Public Television
for joining us and recording for the University archives and for
the future documentary the visual memories all of us will remember
for a lifetime.
Best wishes to all from Odessa.
Michael Miller, Tour Director North Dakota State University
Libraries Journey to the Homeland Tours