In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the NDSU Libraries
in Fargo reaches out to prairie families and former Dakotans. In
various ways, it affirms the heritage of the Germans from Russia
is an important part of the northern plains culture. I want to share
with you some of the comments received from viewers of the landmark
videotape documentary, The Germans from Russia: Children of the
Steppe, Children of the Prairie. We continue to receive wonderful
messages about the documentary through letter and e-mail messages.
Sister Mary Louise Jundt, St. Francis Convent, Hankinson, ND,
a native of Pierce County, ND, writes: "The documentary is a beautiful
testimony of the faith, spirit, and determination of my people.
I could personally relate to so many of the pictures and the accompanying
text from my own childhood growing up near Rugby, ND. I believe
that this program will bring about a new surge of interest and appreciation
for our Germans from Russia heritage among many who share this background,
and will result in new and lasting friendships."
Dr. Robert Kraft, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI,
a native of Strasburg, ND, writes: "There is no other way to bind
a group of people together who have a common heritage and culture
than to honor their past and their ancestry. We are now two and
three generations beyond those first Germans from Russia who arrived
on these shores. We -- these last two generations -- are the direct
beneficiaries of the hardiness and raw courage of our German ancestors
from Russia. We have realized their dreams. The work of art, this
documentary, is the high honor we can pay. We imprint their lives
and their courage into the memories of thousands of us who follow.
Now that we know who we are and where we come from, we may understand
better what we can become and where we might go. Thank you for bringing
this heritage into the forefront and making it a living part of
our national heritage."
Sister Denise Ressler, a member of Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck,
comments: "I appreciated hearing the historical progression of these
people as they came from Germany into Russia and then to America,
their personal stories, and the importance that faith and culture
played in their lives. I found I could relate to the history because
of the stories I remember hearing from my parents. My dad was seven
years old when his parents came to America in 1892, and the German
customs were practiced in our home. Being the youngest of fourteen
children and therefore having lots of relatives, I eagerly listened
for familiar names and places. I was proud to know that these are
my roots. I believe this documentary will always have a place in
history, as future descendants will want to know "who we are" and
"where did we come from."
The documentary will be shown on Spokane PBS on May 27 at 7 p.m.
and Denver PBS on June 14 at 8pm. To secure the documentary videotape,
contact Prairie Public Broadcasting at 1-800-359-6900. This "Collector's Edition" of the videotape includes 20-minute bonus
video footage, "Ukraine Places & Faces".
During May, I joined the Journey to the Homeland tour group to
Odessa, Ukraine; Stuttgart, Germany; and Alsace, France. We visited
the former Bessarabian, Black Sea, and Crimean German villages.
In future columns, I will share with you memories of tour members.
The National Buffalo Museum at Jamestown, ND, features the GRHC
traveling exhibit, "The Kempf Family: Germans from Russia Weavers
on the Dakota Prairies", until October 15. Gottliebina Stolz designed
and wove brilliant "Kanapee" (paradise blankets) for her 1883 wedding
in her ancestral village of Alt-Elft, Bessarabia. Gottliebina immigrated
to North Dakota in 1901 with her husband Johannes-Georg Kempf from
his ancestral village of Beresina, Bessarabia. Gottliebina preserved
her textile heritage through four generations of female descendants,
while homesteading near Ashley and Forbes, ND. See the GRHC website
at "Outreach Programs" for Kempf family and German-Russian clothing/textile
Our outreach schedule will bring GRHC displays and information
materials in July to two North Dakota centennial celebrations, where
these communities have German-Russian heritage: Linton, July 2-3,
Craft Show, former J.C. Penny building, main street; Medina, July
2-3, American Legion Hall. Join us at the Germans from Russia Heritage
Society Convention at the Ramkota Inn, Aberdeen, SD, July 8-11,
1999. Contact the GRHS office in Bismarck for more information at
701-223-6167 or http://www.grhs.org.
The documentary videotape will be available at these events.
For further information about the donations to the collection,
the Kempf display, the videotape documentary, the Journey to the
Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany (including
the large Germans from Russia gathering called the Bundestreffen),
for June 6-19, 2000 tour, GRHC's latest publications, Tender
Hands: Ruth's Story of Healing and Homeland Book of the Bessarabian
Germans, and German-Russian heritage, contact Michael M. Miller,
NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Tel: 701-231-8416;
GRHC website: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc).