At Home in Russia, at Home on the Prairie

One-hour DVD documentary produced by Prairie Public Broadcasting, Fargo, North Dakota, copyright 2012.

2012 Platinum Best of Show Award of the Aurora Awards for television documentaries

Bob Dambach and Michael M. Miller, executive producers of the 2012 documentary, “At Home in Russia, At Home on the Prairie”, a Platinum Best of Show Award from the Aurora Awards, the highest honor for a television documentary. Dambach is director of television, Prairie Public Broadcasting, and Miller, director of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries.

At Home in Russia, at Home on the Prairie tells the story of the Kutchurganers. The life they led in South Russia and their life after journeying to the prairies of North America. The stories are told by the descendants of these pioneers who settled on the prairies of North dakota and Saskatchewan: Monsignor Joseph Senger, Christina Gross Jundt, Helen Fiest Krumm, Dr. Adam Giesinger, Father Thomas Welk, Theresa Kuntz Bachmeier, Barbara Schneider Risling, Ron Volk, Colleen Zeiler, Debra Marquart, Mary Ebach and Clara Ebach.

Germans from Russia tend to have good powers of recall as well as an often sentimental attachment to place, be it homeland, village or farm. Memory is often associated with family and the odyssey a family may have taken over a lifetime of travel or of living within a singular area. It is a complicated interplay as place frequently reinforces memory and memory place.

Family members are not just forces in life but take their shape through historical time and in geographical place. This documentary places one’s own family story in a wider human narrative of what it means to be a German from Russia today. The documentary serves as an audible and visual museum of one emotional and intellectual place, the Kutschurgan Valley in Russia, as the intersection of memory and place, a foundation of many shared and common memories for those of us in the Northern Plains and western Canadian prairie provinces.

A river flows gently into its broad lagoon, its banks punctuated by once German villages, dazzling fields of grain, abundant vineyards, fruit trees and gardens. The land is fertile. The area is typical of many German settlements that once made these Russian steppes a breadbasket of grain and other agricultural products. The Germans who settled the area are largely gone now, scattered in a diaspora of forced migration through difficult decades of political unrest and change. And though the region no longer exists as when the Germans lived there, it endures in the minds of the people, lingering fragilely "Da haam in Russland," "Back home in Russia."

Producer: Bob Dambach
Writers: Dona Reeves-Marquardt, Lewis Marquardt
Editors: Ryan Sailer, Bob Dambach
Videographers: David Geck, Travis Jensen, Ryan Sailer
Production Manager: Barbara Gravel
Captioning: Armour Captioning
Executive Producers: Michael Miller, Bob Dambach

Iron crosses near Allan, Saskatchewan.
Farmers working in the fields near the village of Elsass.
Church of the Assumption in the former Black Sea German village of Selz, Kutschurgan District, South Russia (today Limanskoye, near Odessa, Ukraine).
Tour members inside the former Catholic church in Mannheim, Kutschurgan District (today Kamenka, Ukraine).
Theresa (Kuntz) Bachmeier prepares the dough for the cheese buttons (Käse Knöpfla). Mary Ebach reading one of the old German-Russian recipes from her mother.
Monsignor Joseph Senger at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Karlsruhe, North Dakota, August 2001.

At Home in Russia, at Home on the Prairie

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