Overseas Journey Changes Lives of Local Traveler and her Roots

Marroquin, Art. "Overseas Journey Changes Lives of Local Traveler and her Roots." Daily Bulletin, November 1996.

A Rancho Cucamonga woman's simple desire to trace her German-Russian roots to ancestral villages in Ukraine and Moldavia, recently became a mission of love and mercy.

Barbara Horn gave more than she received during her summer excursion, handing out toys to needy children and equipment to undersupplied medical workers and teachers.

"The economy is very depressed over there since the breakup of the Soviet Union, but I have a strong emotional attachment to those areas and I wanted to help in any way I can," said the 57-year-old.

Horn was one of 85 German Russian descendants from around the United States who visited their ancestral villages from June 17 to Aug.5 as part of a goodwill tour called "Journey to the Homeland: Germany and Ukraine" hosted by North Dakota State University.

Local businesses and companies donated goods ranging from books and paper to soap and perfumes which Horn took to give to villagers.

"The airlines were gracious with us, too, because you are only allowed a certain weight of packages and we had so many supplies, but they let us bring them on," Horn said.

Horn handed children bubble gum, toy cars and small dolls as she walked through the villages.

"All the children were very polite and weren't pushy with each other, and they all said thank you in Russian," Horn said. "The elder ones looked out for the younger ones instead of pushing past them because they all knew we had enough for everyone."

Horn and other members of her travel group wrote down the names of children in Ukraine and Moldavia to link them to pen pals in the United States.

"I made a lot of friends I'm going to keep in touch with, but I just have to learn some Russian so I can communicate with them," she said.

Horn has recorded her family history based on the stories her grandmothers told her as a young girl. During her trip, she visited the once German-occupied villages in which her grandparents lived before immigrating to the United States. Many Germans moved their families to build farms around the fertile area of the Black Sea, dating as far back as the 1760's.

"My ancestors founded two of the villages over there, and that was really exciting to see," Horn said. "It gave me a special feeling to walk into the churches were four generations of my family had been baptized, confirmed and married."

While in Glueckstal, Moldavia, a village one of her ancestors founded, Horn stayed in the home of the city's mayor.

"We sat up all night and drank wine and talked and compared our cultures and lives," Horn said. "It was amazing to see how much we really did have in common, like some recipes we both have, even though we live in different countries."

Horn said the tour directors from North Dakota State University will continue to send supplies to the children in Ukraine and Moldavia.

"I think to see the emotional reaction of these people with these roots and how the trip has affected their lives is the most important thing," said Michael M. Miller, tour director and professor at North Dakota State University. "I will continue to schedule trips like this because it's such a special time."

Anyone interested in going on a trip similar to Horn's is encouraged to call Miller at (701) 231-8416. Anyone who would like to donate school supplies or toys to Ukrainian or Moldavian children is asked to call Horn at (909) 987-0435.

Reprinted with permission of the Daily Bulletin.

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