In Touch with Prairie Living

May 2013

By Michael M. Miller
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo

As I write this May column, I prepare for the 19th Annual Journey to the Homeland tour to Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany, May 16-26, 2013. I have fond memories of our first tour in May 1996, and now we will have the 19th tour group traveling to Odessa to visit their ancestral Bessarabian and Black Sea German villages.

The tour members will visit these Black Sea German villages: Johannestal, Karlsruhe, Kathariental, Landau, Speier and Worms (Beresan District); Hoffnungstal, Kassel and Neu Kassel (Glueckstal District); Baden, Elssass, Kandel, Mannheim, Selz and Strassburg (Kutschurgan District); Grossliebental, Neuberg and Peterstal (Odessa District); Bessarabian German villages: Beresina, Hoffnungstal, Kloestitz, Lichtental, Sarata and Teplitz.

Persons joining the May tour are from Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Mike & Debra Meher of Scotland, S.D., write, “We are taking with us our sons, Andrew and Greg on this trip so they can appreciate and learn more about the Germans from Russia. We want to keep the family research alive and we hope this trip will inspire both of them to do so for years to come. We want to walk on the same soil that our families did.”

“This tour is my mission to honor the struggles of my father and his family. I was born in Germany in 1947 immigrating with family to Alberta in 1953. My father was taken in the German Army in 1941, and spent two years as a Russian P.O.W., released in 1945. My father grew up in the village of Baden near Odessa where I will visit,” shares Peter Mueller of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Ron Schmidt of Lake Forest Park, Wash., says, “My desire to visit my grandparents homeland was inspired by the documentary, ‘The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie’. Knowing that my grandparents and to an extent, my parents had participated in this heroic tale, sparked an interest to gain more knowledge of my heritage.”

“I want to see Odessa, Ukraine, the place of my birth and where I took my first steps. I will walk down the Odessa steps to the shore of the Black Sea where my mother would take my brother and me to swim. I look forward to seeing the places that my parents talked to me about as I was growing up in Germany and in Canada. This journey will help me to understand from where I came and who my people are” writes Adolf Volk of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Loretta Roningen of Bismarck, a native of Elgin, N.D., says, “I am anxious to see the dorfs where my ancestors lived and farmed for a least 100 years before coming to this country. I want to see the type of land they farmed and the type of buildings they lived in.”

James Weigel of Calgary, Alberta, a native of Leader, Saskatchewan, comments, “I am interested in the tour to the Odessa area because both my paternal and maternal grandparents were born there and farmed. In 1902, the Weigel family immigrated to Bowdle, S.D. In 1909, they traveled with five children by horse and wagon to re-settle in Alberta.”

While in Stuttgart, we will visit the headquarters of the Germans from Russia societies. We will take a bus tour to Alsace, France where many of the German families departed between 1804-1808 to emigrate to villages near Odessa, Ukraine. While in Germany, I will meet with Deacon Guenther Vossler, head of the Bessarabian German Society. Vossler visited North Dakota in July 2012 including his relatives at Alfred and Gackle, N.D.

Upon returning from Germany, I will be at the Ashley, N.D., 125th celebration. The GRHC and the Tri-County Tourism Alliance will have displays and information tables at the City Hall on Thursday, June 20, 3-8 p.m.; Friday, June 21, 10 am-6 p.m.; Saturday, 22 June, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The impressive new hardcover book, ‘Ewiger Saatz - Everlasting Yeast: The food culture of the Germans from Russia in Emmons County, Logan County and McIntosh County, North Dakota’ will be available for the first time. Ashley and McIntosh County, N.D., have such a rich German-Russian cultural heritage. Many emigrant families came from these Black Sea and Bessarabian German villages of South Russia (today southern Ukraine) to homestead on the prairies of south-central North Dakota.

For further information about the Friends of the GRHC, the 20th Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany (May 15-25, 2014), and donations to the GRHC (such as family histories and photographs), contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 6050, Dept 2080, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 (Tel: 701-231-8416; Email:; the GRHC website:

May column for North Dakota and South Dakota weekly newspapers.

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