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Letter of Greetings from Michael M. Miller


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Dear friends and colleagues,

Special regards from the campus of North Dakota State University. The NDSU Libraries offer me wonderful opportunities to pursue challenging projects relating to my ancestral roots, the Germans from Russia. These opportunities have enriched my life with valuable and cherished friendships in the USA, Canada, Germany, Moldava, Ukraine, and Russia.

The Dakota Memories Oral History Project sponsored by GRHC was begun in the spring of 2005. The project is designed to document the heritage and culture of the Germans from Russia community. The primary focus is on childhood memories and family relationships, especially what is was like growing up German-Russian on the Northern Plains.

Jessica Clark, a doctoral student in history at NDSU is coordinator of this project. She is a recipient of the Theresa Mack Germans from Russia History Doctoral Fellowhip.

From May to July, 2005, a total of 31 interviews were completed with older persons living in the Ashley, Gackle, Streeter and Wishek areas of south central North Dakota. This fall, two public forums about the project were held at Gackle and Wishek. Plans are to extend the project with additional interviews in other areas of North Dakota with large German-Russian settlements.

Theresa Mack Wald of Grand Forks, ND, wrote: "My gift for the fellowship is to preserve the heritage and culture about the positive aspects of the Germans from Russia. I want to provide a living legacy for the scholarly study of my heritage, of which I am very proud. My parents, John G. Mack born in 1888 and Katherina Deringer born in 1890, lived in the Catholic Black Sea German villages of Elsass and Neu Schloessel, Kutschurgan District, South Russia (today near Odessa, Ukraine). They immigrated in 1901 and 1914, to Pierce County, ND. My father was 14 and my mother was 24 when she came to America."

In September, 2005, I attended the Festival of Germans from Russia, Medicine Hat, Alberta. This was a most impressive event. Leader, Saskachewan will host the festival for October 15-17, 2006, and then back in Medicine Hat in 2007.

I look forward to attending the Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention, Holiday Inn Airport, Portland, Oregon, July 12-16, 2006, and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Convention, Embassy Suites Hotel, Lincoln, Nebraska, August 13-19, 2006.

Friendships were renewed during the Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine, and Stuttgart, Germany in May, 2005. The 12th Journey to the Homeland Tour is scheduled for May 23 - June 2, 2006. For more information, contact Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu.

I continue to serve on the Board of Directors of the Germans from Russia Cultural Preservation (www.grculture.org). Major projects of the Foundation include assistance to the orphanage and boarding school in the former German village of Landau, Beresan District, today in southern Ukraine near Odessa. The Foundation is sponsoring, with private donations, the production of a 2006 documentary on the former German Catholic Kutschurgan villages, today near Odessa, Ukraine.

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (GRHC) at the North Dakota State University Libraries received a $1.1 million endowment in 2000. The gift comes from the estate of Marie Rudel Portner, a native of Fessenden, Wells County, North Dakota. Mrs. Portner was of Bessarabian German-Russian heritage. This endowment substantially enhances and enriches the activities and mission of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. Students, scholars, and family historians will have access to significantly expanding print and electronic resources, oral histories, and archival materials because of this endowment. Marie's father, Simon Rudel, was born in Alt-Arzis, Bessarabia. In 1882, at Scotland, South Dakota, Simon married another Bessarabian immigrant, Dorothea Weber, who was born in Dennewitz, Bessarabia. There were twelve children in the Rudel family. Marie reminisced in 1997 with memories of her Christian baptism in the James River, herding sheep with her sister Hilda, and teaching in rural schoolhouses where chalkboards were simply plaster walls painted black. Marie exemplified the moral strength, humorous wit, and focused determination, which characterized many ethnic German-Russian settlers, as well as other early pioneers of the Northern Plains and Dakota Prairies. The NDSU Libraries are deeply grateful for this generous gift of Marie Rudel Portner in memory of her parents, Simon and Dorothea Weber Rudel.

Gisela Schilling Keller, a longtime employee at the NDSU Varsity Mart, established the Udo Gerhard Keller zu Kellerode Fund with a major financial gift to the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. The Kellers immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1955. Gisela expressed: "We came here from Germany with practically nothing. We were grateful for the opportunities we had in this country. This gift is a thank-you to Fargo and to North Dakota for the opportunity to build a home and to NDSU for the opportunity to work." In 1941 and 1944, Udo and Gisela Keller volunteered to assist the resettlement program of ethnic Germans from the Soviet Union to the Warthegau region in eastern Germany. Many who left Bessarabia and southern Russia near Odessa, Ukraine, had siblings and cousins living in North Dakota.

The Thomas J. Hoffman Collection was received in April, 2004, from Sun City, California. This gift from the Hoffman family was requested to be donated to GRHC by Thomas J. Hoffman, who died in December, 2003. This marvelous collection of genealogy and family resources will be of special interest to persons of Catholic Beresan District ancestry, South Russia (today southern Ukraine). For further information, visit the GRHC website or contact me.

Prairie Public Broadcasting and the NDSU Libraries have collaborated to produce four award-winning, one-hour video documentaries, The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie (1999); Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia (2000); Prairie Crosses, Prairie Voices: Iron Crosses of the Great Plains (2002); and A Soulful Sound: Music of the Germans from Russia (2005).

A Soulful Sound: Music of the Germans from Russia premiered on Prairie Public Television in April, 2005, and is now appearing on other PBS stations throughout the USA. This program is in DVD format along with a performance CD.

Prairie Public Television has produced a new DVD bringing together three documentaries formerly available on videotape: Schmeckfect and Recipes from Grandma's Kitchen, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

If you wish to be added to the Black Sea Mail List to receive e-mail messages of news from GRHC including book and videotape announcements as well as upcoming outreach programs, please let me know with an e-mail message to: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu.

Our outreach activities for 2005 included centennial events at McClusky, Streeter, Wishek and Zeeland, ND providing us with many memories and contacts. We look forward to attending the Harvey ND Centennial for June 29 - July 2, 2006.

The monthly column published since November of 1996, "In Touch with Prairie Living," for North Dakota and South Dakota weekly newspapers continues to be well received. My thanks to the newspaper editors and the many readers.

My work with a wonderful staff continues to be most rewarding and I am deeply appreciative. These people include Ann Braaten and Sara Sunderlin, Emily P. Reynolds Historic Costume Collection, NDSU, where gifts of textiles and clothing to GRHC are housed; Jay Gage, exhibits and textiles curator; Carmen Hauck Hoefs, desk-top publishing; Natalya Kornfeld, Russian translator; Brigitte von Budde, German translator; and student assistants.

We appreciate the work of our volunteers with book reviews, oral history interviews, publications, and outreach programs: Mary Lynn Axtman, Fargo; Bob and Margaret Aman Freeman, Redondo Beach, CA; Linda Haag, Fargo; Brother Placid Gross, Richardton; Edna Boardman, Bismarck; Carol Just, St. Louis Park, MN; Victor Knell, Fargo; Rev. Marvin Hartmann, Fargo; Christine Krismer, Lewis and Dona Reeves-Marquardt, Austin, TX; Regina, Saskatchewan; Thomas and Janice Huber Stangl, Sterling, VA; Allyn Brosz, Washington, D.C.; Betty and Chris Maier, Linton and Apache Junction, AZ; Dr. Homer Rudolf, Richmond, VA; Rosemary Ripplinger Schwan, Devils Lake; and Ronald J. Vossler, East Grand Forks, MN.

My special thanks to volunteer German translators: Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO; Alice Morgenstern, Munich, Germany; and Ingeborg W. Smith, Western Springs, IL.

I encourage you to view Germans from Russia Heritage Collection website at http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc. We have assembled a wealth of information for you to view. May I suggest that you consider purchasing books, videotapes, photo notecards, or other items described in the section titled "Order." They make wonderful gifts and provide needed income for the mission of GRHC. Sales of these items provide important financial assistance to GRHC for these privately funded projects including the Oral History Program, translations, publishing, photography archives, website development, and traveling visual displays.

In recent months, GRHC has published these books: 1) Child of the Prairie, Man of the World: Memoirs of Dr. LaVern Freeh; 2) Extended Relationships of the Communities of Leipzig, Kulm, Tarutino, Bessarabia, Russia; 3) Graf-Buck Family Heritage: Family Photographs and Memories of Streeter, North Dakota; 4) Researchers Guide to McPherson County, South Dakota Cemeteries; 5: The Centennial of St. Andrew's Catholic Church, Zeeland, North Dakota and the Spiritual Heritage of St. John's Catholic Church, Rural McIntosh County, North Dakota.

GRHC recently published its sixth book by Ronald J. Vossler and Joshua Vossler: The Old God Still Lives: German Villagers in Czarist and Soviet Ukraine Write Their American Relatives, 1915-1924.

Nelly Daes' popular Cookbook for Germans from Russia has been translated from German to English by Alex Herzog. Herzog wrote: "What I like about Nelly's cookbook is her inclusion of at times amusing, and at other times very sad and tragic anecdotes, as well as the descriptions of the Black Sea German customs and folkways - all woven between and around the recipes." Janice Huber Stangl, editor for the cookbooks, commented: "This cookbook contains not only recipes, but also humorous and heart-warming anecdotes from the German Russian diaspora. The cookbook is an essential addition to every household."

Already in GRHC's seventh printing since February, 2002, is German Food & Folkways: Heirloom Memories from Europe, South Russia & the Great Plains, by Rose Marie Gueldner.

Dr. Timothy Kloberdanz, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, NDSU, Fargo, wrote: "Although there are German-Russian cookbooks currently on the market, this one is quite unusual because of the way it interweaves background history, ethnic heritage, and so many mouth-watering Old Country recipes. If the German-Russians have a Martha Stewart anywhere in North America, it may very well be Rose Marie Gueldner!"

Brother Placid Gross, German-Russian folklorist, Assumption Abbey, Richardton, ND wrote: "This book is the crowning achievement of all cookbooks. It is a great and wonderful tribute to our pioneer mothers who knew how to hold body and soul together with hard work and creativity to make a banquet with the simplest of basic ingredients."

In closing, I want to extend warm Dakota regards from the prairies and plains, and from here in the Red River Valley.

With Dakota regards,

Michael M. Miller, Bibliographer
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries
PO Box 5599
Fargo, ND 58105-5599 USA
Tel: 701-231-8416,
E-mail: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu
GRHC website: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc
Personal Home Page: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/biography.html

The mission of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is to collect, document, preserve, exhibit, translate, publish, promote, and make accessible resources on the culture, history, folklore, foodways, and textiles and clothing of the Germans from Russia, particularly Bessarabian Germans, Black Sea Germans, Crimean Germans, Dobrudscha Germans, and Volhynian Germans and their descendants in North Dakota and the Northern Plains.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller