by Congressman Toby Roth, Wisconsin
United States House of Representatives
Bundestreffen der Rußlanddeutschen
22 June 1996
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I thank you for your kind invitation to speak to you today. This
is a special privilege for me as an American who is, like you, a
German from Russia.
Today we celebrate our reunion, the reunion of the Germans from
Russia, but more than that, we celebrate who we are, a proud people
with ancient heritage. We stand together shoulder to shoulder with
one another. We will never forget those who came before us, nor
can we forget those who are still waiting for us in the states of
the former Soviet Union to join us.
My ancestors emigrated from Alsace in 1806 to the Kutschurgan
Region near Odessa. In 1905 my great-grandparents left for America
because of military conscription and in search of a land of their
own. They worked very hard and sacrificed to build better lives
The times and their lives were hard, but they loved life and they
had a motto that "the past can never equal the future"
and that their children would have a better life than they had.
Wherever they lived our ancestors were a credit to the community
where they settled. For they were a proud people who contributed
much and did their share of the work. Germans from Russia carry
that same reputation to this day wherever they live, even though
they have had to undergo many different and difficult beginnings.
When I was a young man visiting my grandmother in a little town
in America- Strasburg, North Dakota- she was reminiscing about bygone
Ich fragte meine Großmutter, "Was waren denn das für Leute,
die aus Rußland nach Amerika kamen?" Und ich weiß noch genau,
was sie mir sagte: "Sie hatten eine harte Natur und einen großen
Glauben an Gott."
America was not a land of honey and milk that had been promised.
When my ancestors arrived on the great American Prairie, they found
no water and no trees. There was no wood for shelter or warmth from
the bitter cold winters. To build their homes, they used blocks
of earth and grass. They set their homes into the sides of hills.
The hot summer often scorched the land. Drought, insects, tornados,
and storms were their constant companions. Prairie fires would be
sparked by a bolt of lightning and then rage across the open landscape,
destroying crops. But they persevered. They were free men and women
with the blessings of liberty, and these American pioneers proceeded
to build a lasting home and country.
Our ancestors knew that life can be not only hard, but painful as
well. My grandmother told me that when she left Russia, her grandmother
was on her death bed. My grandmother and her mother had to leave
my great-great-grandmother behind. They had to get on the train
to Bremen, and from there, embark on a ship to America. My grandmother
was only a little girl on that day, but the pain of that parting
stayed with her forever.
For all Germans from Russia and for all those whom we lost contact
during the events of the last half century, let us today ask God
to remember them. We ask God to remember those who have gone before
us, for we owe them so much. We thank our creator for the many blessings
he has bestowed on our people over the thankful that we were spared
the fate of others. I would like to remember and ask Gods
blessing for those who are still trying to find their way home.
Despite the fact that I come from America, our common language,
our old German dialects, are proof of our relationship.
While we remember and are proud of our ancient heritage, we cannot
be shackled by it. I tell my children that today we must move again
just as our ancestors did. We must be adventurous again. Now we
are moving into the third century since that first fateful migration.
My children must have the courage and determination to pull up stakes
and move again--not to move from one country to another, but to
move from one age to another.
Rather than being best with a horse and plow, our children must
now be best with a computer, for this age of computer. Rather than
being best in farming, logging and mining, today our children must
be best educated. We must see to it that they receive the fine education
they deserve. Just like our ancestors were bold, so we must be bold,
But I would like to believe that our children have an advantage.
They have inherited the determination to work hard and take risks.
They are heirs to the German spirit. What our children have inherited
from our ancestors they will have to earn over again for themselves
or success will not be theirs.
From here we must make a firm resolution that we will stay united
and stay in touch. Modern telecommunication and information technology
allow us to do that. We look to individuals, like Michael Miller
for leadership in bringing us together.
Life is a journey filled with great change. So as we begin the
journey into our third century, let us remember that as we go through
these changes those things our ancestors believed, those timeless
values will never change.
Let us go forth into the third century and blaze new trails and accomplish
great things-let us leave our mark on History and the Wold as our
ancestors did. If we are true to our heritage we can do no less.
- That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life;
- That tomorrow will always be better that today;
- That we must keep faith with one another, respect and help one
another--for we are one family, one people.
||U.S. Representative Toby Roth (Wisconsin) visits with recent
immigrants from Siberia at Bundestreffen (large German-Russian
gathering), Stuttgart, Germany, June 22, 1996. Congressman Roth
was a featured speaker at Bundestreffen attended by 50,000 people.
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