German Russians recall folk medicine in radio program

Organizers of the Dakota Memories Oral History Project, in cooperation with Prairie Public Broadcasting, will air a new radio program titled “German-Russian Folk Medicine: Old Docs, Prairie Women, and Healing Hands.”

The program will air on Wednesday, March 14, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. (CST). During their oral histories, narrators share memories of traditional German-Russian folk medicine, home remedies and health care.  This program features fascinating stories about customary home remedies from mothers and grandmothers, hospital visits for broken bones or ailments, the art of healing called brauche and much more.  Carol Just, a German-Russian descendant and researcher, has provided context for these extraordinary memories.

Listeners will hear narrators, such as Alice (Woehl) Buerkley from Kulm, N.D. share of her family’s Friday night visits to the neighbor lady for treatment of ailments like ring worm and boils. Alice remembers the neighbor lady clipping a piece of her hair to make a salve to cure her ring worm. Money was never accepted as it was believed it would not work if money was taken to pay for the healing. Gilbert Ost of Beulah, N.D. humorously recalls the “bare bones” accommodations at the Hillcrest Hospital in Beulah where he was admitted for an appendectomy. The hospital was simply an old hotel that was moved from Halliday.

Public interest in documenting and preserving German-Russian ethnic identity inspired the launch of the project in 2005. For four years, organizers traveled the Northern Plains, gathering stories and documenting family relationships and childhood memories of second and third generation Germans from Russia.

The NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection and Prairie Public provide major funding for the program. A CD of the radio program will be available for $15. To pre-order the CD, contact Acacia Stuckle, special collections associate, at (701) 231-6596 or

The program can be heard on North Dakota stations 90.5 FM in Bismarck, 89.9 FM in Dickinson, 91.7 FM in Devils Lake, 91.9 FM in Fargo, 89.3 FM in Grand Forks, 91.5 FM in Jamestown, 88.9 FM in Minot and 89.5 FM in Williston.

The Dakota Memories Oral History Project is a privately funded project sponsored by the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. NDSU is student focused and committed to its land-grant mission. For more information, contact the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at (701) 231-6596 or visit

George Schmaltz and George Kraft.

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