Search for Siblings - Lost in Russia

Germans From Russia Guest [Valerie Renner Ingram] Tells of her Search for Siblings Sunday, October 23

Tandberg, Kathy. "Searching for Siblings - Lost in Russia." Beulah Beacon, 20 October 2005, sec. 6A.

Valerie Ingram, Spokane, Wash., tells of her search for lost siblings.
The Germans from Russia Die Deutsche Stammhalter Chapter will present special guest speaker Valerie Ingram Sunday, Oct. 23 at 2:30 p.m. at the Beulah Senior Center.

Ingram, a Spokane, Wash., wife, mother and grandmother, has a special story to share of hope fulfilled that will grab the heartstrings of all.

It is the story of family, her two older siblings, once lost in Russia, now found. Siblings left behind with their mother after their father was forced to flee for his life during World War II, leaving all he knew and loved behind.

It is the story of a trip to Russia in 2003 as Ingram took her search one step further to the land of her father’s birth in hopes of finding her lost siblings.

Ingram’s father, Michael Renner, spoke rarely of his flight from Russia when he was alive, but she said it was something that never left his mind or heart. He fled Russia under force and fear that if he stayed, the lives of his family would be in danger. All he took with him was a reminder of his two children, a photo that hung on the wall of their Spokane home as far back as Ingram can remember.

The son of landowners, Christian Renner and his wife, Barbara, Ingram’s father Michael, was born in 1908 in Speier, Beresan District, South Russia.

He grew up at a time in Russian history when Germans feared for their lives. A wrong move or wrong word could send them to labor camps or even worse, death.

At the age of 10, Michael watched for three days as the Bolsheviks tortured, burned, cut and beat his father. Then he was drug onto the streets of their village and shot.

Fearing for her child’s life, his mother obtained "doctored papers" for her son and sent him to live with relatives in another village. Ingram said the Russians had a creed, "Death to the cradle."

"And my father was the cradle of his family," Ingram said.

Michael married a Russian woman and they had two children, Emma in 1935 and Adolf in 1937. As tensions mounted throughout Russia, raids on German families were not uncommon. Germans of all ages were forced into Russian military or work camps. Michael knew his existence in the family was placing his family in harm’s way so he made plans to flee.

His Russian wife refused to leave her newly widowed mother, so she and their two children stayed behind, with the belief that her Russian blood would keep them from harm.

Michael met and married Ingram’s mother, Angela, in Germany. The couple had three sons before immigrating to America in 1952. They lived briefly in Solen, N.D., where Ingram was born, and then moved to Spokane, Wash. where they had two more children.

Throughout her life, Ingram always thought of her two lost siblings, but it was not a subject she could speak with her father about.

In 1992 another sibling approached their father with the idea of searching for Emma and Adolf, but their father forbid it.

This photo of Emma and Adolf was all Ingram’s father had of his two older children when he fled Russia during World War II. He never saw them again.

The request must have stayed on Michael’s heart and mind. A few days later he called his six children together to tell them the story of what happened in Russia. It was the first time he spoke openly of his past.

"He was afraid that if we began to search for Emma and Adolf, the Russians would hear that he was still alive and they would find him and do terrible harm to his family," said Ingram.

Michael then gave his children permission to search for their older siblings after his death. Sadly, he died just three years later in 1995 at the age of 87. He was buried with the photo of his two lost children in his hands.

Ingram’s story is one anyone can connect to, whether they are of German from Russia descent or not. If you ask anyone on the streets where their ancestral roots began, they most likely will answer Europe, Russia, Scandinavia.

Many children and families, like Ingram’s, were lost and separated during the immigration years. Some were found, others, like Ingram’s siblings have remained lost.

But Ingram’s story continues in a search that proves the lost can be found. She began with Internet searches and talking of her plight. It comes to full bloom on a journey to Russia where she walked the same streets her grandfather and father once walked.

What she found will fill the listener with anticipation and hope.

Ingram will share her story in depth this Sunday. It promises to be an exciting afternoon.

"I’m still excited about it and it was two years ago," Ingram said.

All are invited to attend this afternoon of heritage and hope. A potluck will follow the program.

Reprinted with permission of the Beulah Beacon.

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