In Touch with Prairie Living

June 2019

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

Join us for the GRHC Open House on July 31, 2-4 pm, at the North Dakota State University Library, Fargo, to celebrate the release of Prairie Public’s new documentary, “Women Behind the Plow”, and GRHC’s new book, “Emilie: A Girl from Bessarabia”. We will be serving German-Russian Wedding Kuchen.

That day, NDSU’s Main Library will be transformed into a “museum” for the event, featuring a number of exhibits to view, including: 1) Women Behind the Plow traveling exhibit sponsored by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance; 2) Women in Agriculture display, sponsored by the NDSU Libraries; 3) German-Russian: Textiles & Clothing, sponsored by the Emily P. Reynolds Historic Costume Collection; 4) The story of the Germans from Russia & Preserving Architecture: Sustaining German-Russian Heritage, Father William C. Sherman Homesteads in North Dakota Photograph Collection, Iron Spirits: North Dakota Blacksmith made Grave Crosses – four exhibits sponsored by GRHC.

The World Premiere of the new documentary, “Women Behind the Plow”, will premiere at 7 pm, at the historic Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway North, downtown Fargo. More than 20 women were interviewed for the documentary in German-Russian Country, in south-central North Dakota – Emmons, Logan and McIntosh counties. “It is an area strong in agriculture, but also strong in heritage and stories,” said Michael Miller, Director of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.

The 60-minute documentary expands upon the stories from the book by the same name. It includes memories of the women featured in the book, as well as stories about women on the farm from the Great Depression until today. As daughters of German-Russian immigrants, they shared the historic traits of their ancestors: love of family, hard work, and religious faith. They embodied the German-Russian expression “Arbeit macht das Leben Suess” or “Work makes life sweet”.

The 49th Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) International Convention will be held July 31-August 3, “CELEBRATING THE PAST”, at the Fargo Holiday Inn. For more information and registration, go to – Workshops include: “Christian Netz Hillius: German-Russian Emigrant to North Dakota Learns to Read at Age 62”, “Emmer Wheat: Gift from Russia”, “German Newspapers in the Dakotas – Connecting at Home and Abroad”, “Gottlieb Weisser German-Russian Pioneer Settlers on the Prairie”. “Hutterite Life – History and Social Structure”; “Breaking the Silence: Germans from Russia and the Holocaust in Transnistria”, “Separatists in Bessarabia – A Genealogist’s Nightmare”, “Uncle Fred’s Diary., January-May 1935: Selected Readings”, “Black Sea Folklore”, and “Five Years after the Annexation of Crimea: Looking to the Past and Toward the Future of Ukraine”.

Other workshop presentations include: “If God Would Have Mercy: Post-WWII German-Russian Refugee Letters”, “Letters form Bessarabian Refugees to Pfitzer Family in Java, South Dakota: Desperations Meets Generosity in Post WWII Germany”, “Lost in Translation, Emilie: A Girl from Bessarabia”. “ Neudorf, Then and Now”, “Treasures form the Germans from Russia Heritage: Textiles and Clothing Collections at North Dakota State University”, “Stuck Down, but not Destroyed: The Story of Rudolph Heupel, a German-Russian Immigrant”, “Gemuetlichkeit of Poetry”; “GRHS 101: Who We Are/What We Do”, “Journey to the Homeland Tour Reunion & Future Interest”, “Characteristics that Differentiated and Connections that United the First German Settlers in Bessarabia’, and “DNA: Biological Basics of Genetic Genealogy”.

Torie Jones, GRHC’s Special Collections Assistant, presentation will examine the Johannes and Christina (Ehni) Schock Letter and Photograph Collection housed at the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo. The collection contains 368 letters received by Johannes and Christina from German-Russian refugees living in Europe in the years following WWII. These letters detail their experiences both during and after the war focusing primarily on post-war conditions. This collection is valuable for future research and sheds a light on a part of German-Russian history is that is often forgotten. The Schock Collection is available Digital Horizons –

During the convention, Michael Miller and Jeremy Kopp, GRHC staff, will host a Journey to the Homeland Tour Reunion, 1996-2019, at the Fargo Holiday Inn, August 2, at 5 pm. They will share photos highlighting the 23rd homeland tour in May. Past tour members will reunite and share memories of their tour experiences. Additional tour information is available at

The Welk Homestead State Historic Site of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, located near Strasburg, ND, is open Thursday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm until Memorial Day weekend. Newly added to the Homestead you will find historic farm machinery and a vegetable garden. More information about the Welk Homestead:

If you would like more information about the 24th Journey to the Homeland Tour to Germany and Ukraine (May 2020); becoming a Friend of the GRHC, or would like donate (family histories and photographs), contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 6050, Dept. 2080, Fargo, ND 58108-6050. (Tel: 701-231-8416); Email:; website:

June 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