Lodian Travels to Return to his Russian German Roots
Chrismer, Ellen. "Lodian Travels to Return to his Russian German Roots." Lodi News-Sentinel, 4 March 1997.
Lodian Hiller Goehring, 72, has been in touch with his Russian German
heritage his whole life.
was born and reared in Lodi, as the son of German immigrants of
Russia, Goehring spoke the Schwabian German dialect before he spoke
English. He attended the German Baptist Church, now the First Baptist
on Central Ave.
mother, Pauline and father, Jacob, patronized German-speaking merchants
in town. And his father would regale him with stories about his
upbringing in the pre-revolutionary Russian town of Neudorf.
Later, as Goehring
pursued careers as a farmer and a truck driver, he took less interest
in his heritage.
"I was an American,
and I sort of got away from that," he said.
But in retirement,
Goehring's interest was piqued again after he learned of a former
Lodi school-mate, and fellow Russian German, who was now teaching
German in Germany.
ago, I thought maybe I'd go visit Germany," he said. "But then I
thought, Why don't I just go to Russia?"'
And the timing
was just right. With the break-up of the Soviet Union and the opening
of its former republics' borders, the poor nations were hungry for
So in June
1996, after several years of genealogical research, Hiller and his
cousin Victor Goehring, a Lodi attorney, joined a group of Russian
Germans from across the United States to visit the former Soviet
Union. Leading the tour was Michael Miller, a North Dakota State
University bibliographer studying Germans from Russian. The participants
traveled to cities and small country villages of Moldava and the
and video coverage of the trip will be presented Saturday at a Lodi
meeting of American Society of Germans from Russia.
whose grandfathers were brothers, visited the country village of
Neudorf (renamed Karamanovo) in what is now Moldava. The Goehrings
did not have any relatives left in the town, for most Russian Germans
who did not immigrate to America were exiled to the coal mines of
Siberia during Stalin's reign, or, under less stringent Soviet government
control, moved back to Germany.
were, however, finally able to add an image to the stories their
fathers, who left Russia for America in 1911, had told them about
the village of about 1,000 people. Jacob Goehring and Victor's father,
Philip, had spoken of the beautiful Lutheran church that was the
centerpiece of the town.
was their entertainment and their pastime," said Hiller Goehring.
found that the church's steeple had been knocked off by the Russian
army after the 1917 revolution. The building is now used to store
hay in this primitive agricultural area.
of the region were poor but generous, the Goehrings found. One of
Hiller's greatest thrills on the trip was staying in the home of
an elderly woman, Martha Kammerer, in Gluckstal (now Glinnoje),
Moldava. Upon their leaving, she presented the Goehrings with an
embroidered handkerchief made by her grandmother in the 1850s.
"I think she
was just so happy that we spoke her language," Hiller said.
the biggest highlight of his trip to study his Russian German heritage
occurred in Germany itself when he met his second cousin, Jacob
Goehring, whose existence he discovered through his research.
decades of working in the coal mines, Jacob had moved with his family
to Rastatt, Germany.
"It was such
a thrill because when we were growing up, we were told that these
people who had stayed behind in Russia were dead, all dead," Hiller
cousins' meeting in Rastatt was emotional.
couldn't believe that we had been raised half way around the world
from each other," he said. "It brings tears to my eyes."
odyssey had also given Hiller a greater appreciation of his own
"When I came
home from the trip, I was a better American," he said.
with permission of the Lodi News-Sentinel