Germans From Russia Heritage Society to Meet in Rapid City

"Arbeit macht das Leben süss...In Amerika durch Gottes Gnade"
("Work makes life sweet...In America by the grace of God")

"Germans From Russia Heritage Society to Meet in Rapid City." MDU Community Matters 5, no. 2, 2003, 4.

Dick and Vera Hoff are helping organize the 2003 Germans from Russia convention set for September 4-7 in Rapid City. The Hoffs' grandparents immigrated to America from villages near the Black Sea.

Inscribed onto a forged iron cross, this simple German phrase expresses the deep gratitude of a proud hardworking people. The cross greets visitors at the Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) center located on the west side of Bismarck, just south of Interstate 94. The GRHS celebrates the successful journey of the German speaking immigrants who left the Black Sea area around the turn of 20th Century and settled in the northern Great Plains.

Schmiedeeiserene Grabkreuze -

"Forged iron crosses," like the one at the GRHS center, stand as icons in rural cemeteries across much of North Dakota, South Dakota and eastern Montana. While some are the work of Ukrainian or Bohemian artisans, most iron crosses mark the graves of German immigrants. They were forged by German smithies who brought their trade from the old country.

"We're very proud of our heritage," says Dick Hoff. "Imagine the courage - the grit - our parents and grandparents had to muster to leave their homes and families and take a chance on a new land a half a world away. The GRHS keeps that spirit alive."

Dick and his wife, Vera, are both Germans from Russia stock. Retired now and living in Rapid City, they grew up in Richardton, North Dakota, where their grandparents settled after leaving the Black Sea villages in Ukraine. Dick and Vera have visited their ancestral homes in Germany and in what is now Ukraine.

"Keeping the spirit alive is why Dick and I are active in our local GRHS chapter," Vera says. "We are the children of a very unique people. We have a unique heritage with a unique story to tell. If we let our heritage and our story fall by the wayside, we will lose a small part of what has made our country so great - we will lose part of the story that tells why America will always be such a magnet for people who want freedom and a better life."

Dick and Vera are members of the Black Hills chapter organizing committee that will host the annual Germans from Russia Heritage Society 2003 convention, which will be held in Rapid City on September 4-7. Dick says they hope to have 700 people in attendance.

"Our conventions are so much fun," Vera says. "German food, German sing-alongs and dancing, lots of fellowship - who wouldn't have a great time!"

The convention agenda will include workshops that help people appreciate their Germans from Russia heritage. Family tree research, using on-line resources and German language tips will be available. The winners of the "Pride in Your Heritage" student essay contest will be honored at the convention as well. The contest focuses on why it's important to be proud of Germans from Russia ancestry.

"The convention general session will feature speakers on Germans from Russia historical and cultural topics," Dick says. "The convention will close with a non-denominational memorial service, conducted in German and English, in honor of members who died since the last convention" he adds.

"Our convention theme is `Living our Grandparents' Dream,''' Vera says. "How fitting - it's really what we're all about,"

Interested in attending the 2003 GRHS convention? More information about the convention is available through the Germans from Russia website at, or by calling Dick & Vera Hoff at 605-718-4116, e-mail address, or Bob Schneider at 605-722-7712.

Reprinted with permission of MDU Community Matters.

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