Visit From North Dakota

Harsch Moderau, Elfriede. "Visit From North Dakota." Volk auf dem Weg, July 1999.

Translation of German to English by Brigitte von Budde, Fargo, North Dakota


On May 30, the choir Heimatklänge of Stuttgart welcomed rare guests: Prof. Michael Miller, bibliographer at North Dakota State University in Fargo, USA, and a group of 20 Americans came to Stuttgart. They were on their return trip from the Ukraine and Bessarabia where they had visited the former German settlement areas.

On their trip they were very impressed by the wonderful hospitality and friendliness of the people. However, the poverty which had become worse especially in the Ukraine in the last few years affected them very much. A few days were planned for Stuttgart. Aside from a city tour there were excursions to Elsass and Ludwigsburg. Many participants were in Germany for their first time; they were fascinated by our beautiful country.

Our choir had invited the Americans to coffee and home made pie in the Haus der Heimat. Of course, our guests were welcomed with music starting with the songs "Ave Maria", "Die kleine Bergkirche" and with folk songs which our choir director, Marina Bauer, had recently rehearsed with us. Waldemar Hergert (accordion) and Stefan Klötzel (balalaika) played Russian and German melodies. Marina Bauer welcomed the guests and their guide Prof. Miller as well as the chairman of the chapter of Stuttgart, Ludmilla Holzwarth.

In order to get mutually acquainted, all choir members introduced themselves and told of the experiences in their lives: deportation from German settlement areas to Siberia and Kazakhstan, forced labor, separation from family members, ban of the German language. Many did not survive this difficult time. Our choir members are almost all late ethnic German emigrants; many came to Germany only a few years ago.

Our visitors introduced themselves also: most of them had German names. Their ancestors immigrated from Russia, mainly from the Odessa area, to America where they largely settled in North and South Dakota as farmers and cultivated the prairie. Many descendants of these farmers, among them also our guests, have learned and studied other occupations. They have sold or leased out their farms and moved to other areas of the USA.

Quickly we made contact with our guests even when there were language barriers. Once again we could experience most beautifully how music unites people in spite of borders and language barriers. It was a hot, sticky summer day and a thunderstorm coming up suddenly with strong lightning and thunder brought welcome relief. One of the visitors said the thunderstorm reminded him of his home in North Dakota where such storms are frequent.

Many nice memories of our concert tour to North Dakota two years ago stirred in us.

After all had had coffee and kuchen, the youngest traveler of the group, Dr. Kurt-Alexander Zeller, a singer, surprised us on the piano with two songs of Franz Schubert accompanied by a lady from the group.

The afternoon passed quickly and good-byes were said soon. Then the young American singer spontaneously joined our tenors and sang with them. Our guests joined enthusiastically in the song "Wo Freunde auseinander geh'n" the last verse of which we sang in the English language. The guests from the USA sang along the song "Du liegst mir im Herzen", the song so loved by all German Russians and Americans, and swayed to the music.

Prof. Miller said a brief farewell on behalf of the travel group. He presented us with a gift for the Landsmannschaft the Homeland Book of the Bessarabian Germans by Albert Kern and the video The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie. He emphasized how important it is that American German Russians learn what a difficult life their relatives and countrymen remaining in Russia had to endure. After that he asked Dr. Lee Keck, a pastor from among the guests, for a closing prayer. Dr. Keck thanked God for His gracious intercession on the rest of the journey. He included in his prayer especially all German Russians and prayed for peace in the whole world.

Reprinted with permission of Volk auf dem Weg.

Our appreciation is extended to Brigitte von Budde for translation of this article.

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