Visiting the Convention of Germans From Russia in the USA

Guests at the Bundestreffen (left to right): Adolf Fetsch, President of the Landsmannschaft der Dentschen au Russland, with guests from the USA: Bob Benson, Alton Sissell and Michael M. Miller.

Mayer, Helmut. "Visiting the Convention of Germans From Russia in the USA." Volk auf dem Weg, November 2004, 13.

Translation from German to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Just as we met for our own 28th Bundestreffen of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland ithis past year in Karlsruhe, US residents of German-Russian descent held their own "34th Annual International Convention" of the "Germans from Russia Heritage Society" between July 22 through July 25 in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Our trip to America had been planned from far away. As early as three months prior, Helma and Oskar Eberle and I had received an invitation from Janice Hubert Stangl and her husband Thomas Stangl to visit them and to participate in the convention. Mrs. Stangl is closely related to Mrs. Eberle (nee Seefried), who, like me, was born in Marienfeld near Odessa. The Stangls expertly organized every detail of our three-week sojourn.

We started off on July 21 from Stuttgart to Frankfurt, and from via Denver to Bismarck.

I was speechless at the sight of the huge meeting rooms at the convention [hotel]. Everything was wonderfully organized. Each participant had a name tag that also showed his/her place of residence and ancestral village in Russia, in Ukraine, in Moldova, etc.

On July 22 at 9 AM, Herr Schulz expressed a special welcome, which was followed by a speech by the president of the society, Alois Feist, then a prayer by Pastor Bader and the American national hymn [Helmut forgot that the Canadian national anthem was also played. Tr.]. Finally, 15 German-Russian chapters of the Society were introduced. They all make great efforts on behalf of their Germanness.

Before lunch we also heard brief speeches from the mayors or Bismarck and Mandan, plus a few other dignitaries. Marvin Eckman told of his parents' homesickness for their old Russian home and he encouraged people to get more involved in genealogical research. In this context, several genealogical researchers were introduced, for example, the former Glueckstal resident [he means descendant of such, Tr.], Margaret Freeman, who along with her husband Bob, Michael Miller and the Stangls have attended our Bundestreffen several times.

The excellently prepared meals were usually followed with some entertainment. We visitors from Germany were spoken to by many of the attendees, often in German. I was surprised to see that there are apparently still many people in the USA who "deitsch verzaehlen so wie mir derhoim; ond des verstehen viele, spraechen isch schwer fer sie [in dialect: talk in German, just like us at home; many understand it, but speaking it is tough for them]."

There were many meeting rooms in which people could be informed about their areas of ancestry such as the Kutschurgan, the Caucasus, the Beresan Colonies, as well as Bessarabia, Grossliebental, Glueckstal, Hoffnungstal, Crimea, the Volga region, even about parishes in Russia and ancestry in Germany. Displayed in a large room were many genealogy books, and I even saw NellyDaes' cookbook there.

[In a session] on July 24, the Stangls, the Eberles, Alex Herzog and I talked about our life stories. When it became known that I am the author of ballads that have been translated into American English [and printed in] the new Glueckstal book, I was asked to recite a poem in Schwabian, and I did so with some success.

A total of about one thousand people took part in the four-day convention. Some are by now third- or even fourth-generation Germans living in the USA. They are truly Americans, but still have deep, heartfelt feelings about their German ancestry. They are all looking for or researching their ancestors and consider this work an important and necessary facet of their future.

Appreciation is expressed to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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