February 27, 2006
UND News, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks
By Peter Johnson, Media Relations Coordinator
A just-published book by award-winning University of North Dakota English instructor Ron Vossler and UND alum Joshua Vossler -- a father-son team -- details through translated correspondence the persecution endured by the German communities in Russia and the Ukraine during Czarist and, subsequently, Soviet times. The books title, The Old God Still Lives, is adapted from a German-language aphorism that reflects the survival spirit of the Germans-from-Russia culture: despite the hardships and persecution, were still here thanks to Gods grace.
Thousands of Germans from Czarist-era Ukraine settled in the United States between 1873 and 1914, says Vossler, who is finishing work on a fourth documentary to be released this year and another, bigger book about the culture. About 35 percent of North Dakotans can trace their heritage back directly to Germans from Russia immigrants, including many that came via the Alsace-Lorraine district on the French-German border.
These immigrant families, who escaped the persecution in their homelands, maintained a regular correspondence with relatives back home, says Vossler, a veteran UND English instructor who traveled extensively in the Ukraine, Moldova, Canada, the Alsace province in France, and the United States to conduct interviews with Germans from Russia who had survived two world wars, the Russian revolution and civil war, two famines, and concerted efforts by both Czarist and Soviet authorities to eliminate them.
Vossler, an internationally renowned expert on the subject who has scripted three widely-aired, highly-praised documentaries about Germans from Russia and their culture both here in their native lands, also has written several other popular books about Germans from Russia. His titles include another collection of translated letters, a memoir, and a collection of Germans from Russia folk humor. Vossler also developed and has internationally performed a stand-up comic routine that includes humor and anecdotes based on the Germans-from-Russia culture and language.
The Old God Still Lives: Ethnic Germans in Czarist and Soviet Ukraine Write Their American Relatives 1915-1924 is a compilation of letters-researched and translated by the Vosslers for this book-from ethnic Germans in the Ukraine and elsewhere to German-from-Russia relatives in the United States. The authors provide an extensive introduction and a bibliography.
Joshua, a 2000 Phi Beta Kappa UND graduate with majors in English and German and a minor in visual arts, also illustrated the book.
The Old God Still Lives is published by the North Dakota State University Libraries' Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.