Messages from Michael M. Miller while traveling in Argentina and Brazil

January 31, 2012

Bob Dambach and I experience very good Delta Airlines connections from Fargo to Buenos Aires with arrival about 8:15 am today, 31 January. All went well and no problems with the Argentinian Customs. Mirta Kreng and Dr. Claudio Katiz kindly met us with signage at the airport.

We will have a meeting 6-8 pm and then a dinner for Bob Dambach and myself with Mirta Kreng and Claudio Katiz. Mirta is Volga German and speaks English; Claudio grew up in Brazil, Black Sea German, and speaks German language. Thus with Mirta in English and for Claudio we converse in German. They already share the warm hospitality and friendliness of our Argentinian Germans from Russia brothers and sisters.

Driving to the hotel, for me it looks like a European ethnic population. The front desk workers have German last names with roots of grandparents to northern Germany and to Germans in Romania.

On Thursday evening, 1 February, good friend Dante Marino will come to the Holiday Inn Express. We will then travel together to the Province of Entre Rios with large Volga German population for 2-5 February.  We will stay overnight 3-8 February in Parana, and hopefully watch the Super Bowl Game in Parana. The time is 3 hours ahead from Fargo time to Parana, Argentina.

From Buenos Aires,


February 1, 2012

Best regards from the Holiday Inn Express. Today it is sunny and temperatures will be in the low 80s. We are experiencing a North Dakota summer on 1 February.

This afternoon we meet with Enrique "Pipo" Fischer, well known Volga German musician from Argentina television. This evening we have dinner at the home of Isabel Kessler with Volga German ethnic foods. There will also be traditional Volga German ethnic music. We will do filming of the event and the foods.

On 2 February, we drive to Gualeguaychu in the Province of Entre Rios where there are many Volga German colonies. We will interview and film Volga German Jose Sittner (95). We will also meet with a journalist for a local newspaper article. Leandro Hildt will show us his extensive archives of materials he has collected of the Volga German colonies of the Province of Entre Rios.

For 3-8 February we are in the Parana/Crespo area of the Province of Entre Rios, north of Buenos Aires, about 3-4 hours for extensive site visits and interviews of Volga German settlements.  We hope to watch the Super Bowl from Parana on Sunday. The time is 3 hours ahead from Central Standard Time in USA.  Bob Dambach will be cheering for the New York Giants having grown up in nearby New Jersey.

It is estimated there are about 2 to 2.5 million persons of Volga German ancestry in Argentina, a country with a population of 40 million.

With best wishes from Argentina,
Michael Miller and Bob Dambach, director of television, Prairie Public Broadcasting, Fargo, ND

February 2, 2012

Today we drove to Gualeguaychu which is about 2 hours north of Buenos Aires and close to the Uruguay border. I was pleased to have a radio and newspaper interview relating to the Germans from Russia documentary project we are doing in Argentina and Brazil. Many questions were asked about the life of the Germans from Russia in the USA/Canada to compare to what I have experienced thus far in Argentina. I shared how impressed I have been with the warm hospitality and the many kindnesses of our brothers and sisters as German-Russians.

I saw the nice facilities for the local Volga German Society in Gualeguaychu. There I presented a USA flag for the Society offices.

On 3 February, we travel on Parana, Province of Entre Rios where we will visit many Volga German settlements, see wrought iron crosses in cemeteries similar to those seen in the central and northern plains of USA, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and visit with potential interviewees for the documentary project.

Warmest regards from the Province of Entre Rios, Argentina,


February 3, 2012

Bob Dambach, director of television, Prairie Public Broadcasting, Fargo, ND, and I are now in Parana, to 8 February. The Province of Entre Rios, north of Buenos Aires, has about 1 million people and about 28% are of Volga German ancestry.

Today on 3 February we had amazing visits to identify potential narrators, site locations, and planning for the future filming priorities when we plan to return to Argentina in 2013 with Prairie Public Television videographers. I continue to be impressed with the great interest, the warm reception, and the hospitality from the Germans from Russia communities where we have traveled thus far.

At 7 am on 4 February, I have live interview at a local Parana radio station. Then we will travel to nearby settlements of Volga Germans and meet with local groups.

We will travel by bus from Parana back to Buenos Aires, and then on 9 February fly to Curitiba, Brazil. We will be in southern Brazil to 17 February. While in Brazil we will meet with families of Mennonite, Bessarabian and Volhynian German ancestry.

Warmest Argentinian regards from Parana,


February 6, 2012

Monday, 6 February hello from Parana, Province of Entre Rios, Argentina. I was able to watch the Super Bowl on ESPN in the Spanish language. This morning in Parana we meet with older Germans from Russia as potential interviewees. Then we travel to Crespo to meet Orlando Britos, local historian; meet with Pedro Porschneg (85), about Volga German customs & traditions; and complete an interveiw with a writer from the Crespo newspaper. Sunday, 5 February included meeting a visit to Ville Valle Maria (formerly Mariental, Volga German settlement) near Crespo - where we visited the Wendler family farm and saw much German coooking traditions. We presented a USA flag & 2012 North Dakota Horizons calendar to the mayor of Ville Valle Maria, visited the impressive Catholic Church, and saw the museum restoration project.


February 9, 2012

Today we arrived from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Curitiba, Brazil. Upon arrival meeting Carlos Alberto Schwab and Marist Brother Estavo Mueller, we traveled to the Catholic university where we completed a very informative video interview with Brother Estavo. He has written a number of books on the immigration and settlement of the Volga Germans in southern Brazil. 

We are guests at the home of Carlos Alberto Schwab in Ponta Grossa for 9-11 Feb and then will be in Curitiba 11-13 Feb. Carlos Schwab has written the important book, "Resumo Historico e Genealogia dos Alemaes do Volga" (1997), in the Portuguese language. He autographed a copy as a donation to the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo.

From 13-17 Feb, we fly to Porto Alegre where we will travel many miles to visit with Bessarabian German and Volhynian German families who settled in southern Brazil.

We already find the nice Brazilian hospitality like we experienced with the Germans from Russia people in Argentina.

The airline flights, travel and meetings has been challenging and tiring, but most productive with plans for the South American Germans from Russia documentary project.

Warmest regards from Ponta Grossa, Brazil,


February 10, 2012

Good evening from Ponta Grossa, Brazil. Bob Dambach of Prairie Public Television and I had an amazing and memorable experience today visiting the Mennonite community of Witmarsum. The filming at the community likely at end of March 2013 will be important for the South American Germans from Russia documentary project.


February 12, 2012

12 February Sunday regards from Curitiba, Brazil. We are experiencing much cooler weather here in southern Brazil compared to the warm temperatures of Argentina. At 7 am on 13 February, we will fly from Curitiba to Porto Alegre. Then we will travel many miles to meet Bessarabian German and Volhynian German families. The fruit here is very fresh and delicious, and I am experiencing Brazilian foods. Best wishes from Brazil.

February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day regards from beautiful Mondai, in southern Brazil, with about 11,000 people. The area looks much like southern Germany with many forests, rivers, and farms. Many people immigrated directly to this area from Germany since the terrain was similar. Many people still speak the German language here. There were also some families who in 1930 immigrated from Teplitz and Krasna, Bessarabia to this area of southern Brazil.

I had wonderful interviews in Mondai in German with Lydia (Balmer) Lehrbach, age 89, and her sister, Anna (Balmer) Tarsch (Harsch?), 87, both who were children living in Teplitz, Bessarabia, when they immigrated with their parents in 1930 to this area of Brazil. They shared many childhood memories, immigrating to Brazil, and their life growing up in the Mondai area.  We also visited with Nicodemus and Rufina (Kuntz) Mueller with ancestral roots of the Catholic village of Krasna, Bessarabia. These people will be very good interviewees for the South American documentary project relating to the immigration of Bessarabian Germans to southern Brazil.

On 15 February, we travel on to Santo Angelo where we will meet Helmut Rosenthal to show us his private museum, and to visit about his German-Russian roots and visit local sites.

Each day continues to be an amazing experience.

Best wishes from southern Brazil,


February 15, 2012

Today Bob Dambach, director of television, Prairie Public Broadcasting, and I had a long drive with Mauricio Norenberg, traveling 6 hours from Mondai in the State of Santa Catarina, to Santo Angelo. Upon arrival, we met Helmut Rosenthal where we stay overnight guests in an apartment across from the university. Helmut has been to Lethridge, Alberta to visit his relatives and also attended in the past a World Lutheran Conference of the Missouri Synod in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mauricio is kindly helping us as Portuguese/English translator. He works in New Zealand and is at home visiting his mother and family near Porto Alegre.

Both Helmut Rosenthal and Mauricio Norenberg are of Volhynian German ancestry. They have done much research, know their family history, and have relatives in Alberta, Canada.

In later afternoon, we traveled from Santo Angelo to Santa Rosa where we had a most informative meeting at the City Offices with the Volhynian German community with about 20 persons. They are most interested to preserve their heritage as Volhynian Germans. They asked many questions about the South American documentary project, how they can help, and wanting to learn more about the Germans from Russia in Canada and USA. I was pleased to meet Roberto Racho, who spoke excellent English, and works as a sales representative for Pioneer Seed in Santa Maria. Roberto kindly agreed to assist with the documentary project as a translator when we return to this area of southern Brazil in 2013 to film about the Volhynian Germans. He showed us the book of his Just family history done by a relative in Saskatchewan.

We see good possibilities with Helmut Rosenthal and the Volhynian German community at Santa Rosa once the documentary is completed in 2014, with program also completed in the Portuguese language. Our expectations for our visit today were much more than we ever expected. Again we were so very well received and welcomed by the Brazilian community of Volhynian Germans.

On 16 February, we will visit the nearby university, see the private museum of Dr. Helmut Rosenthal, and visit the Cultural Center. Then we have a long drive of seven hours from Santo Angelo to Porto Alegre where we stay overnight. On Friday, 17 February, we fly from Porto Alegre to Buenos Aires, Argentina. From 18-20 February, we will drive the Coronel Suarez area, State of Buenos Aires, about six hours south of Buenos Aires. There we will visit Volga German settlements.

Best wishes from Santo Angelo,


February 18-20, 2012

Bob Dambach of Prairie Public Broadcasting, and I returned on 20 February from Coronel Suarez to Buenos Aires, a five hour drive.  It is a four-day weekend in Argentina with holidays for 20-21 February before Ash Wednesday and the ending of Carnival. There is a shortage of gasoline here in Argentina. We were quite concerned driving the 430 KM from Coronel Suarez to Buenos Aires but all was ok.

Our visit to Coronel Suarez was most rewarding. We felt that the visit was very well organized by Daniel Minig, head of tourism with the city offices. Daniel worked closely with Carlos Jose Villar of the Mayor's office who spoke English well. The visit to the nearby three Volga German colonies of Santa Maria, San Jose (St. Joseph) and Santa Trinidad provided impressive sites including the historic house architecture, the beautiful church at St. Joseph with two steeples, the cemeteries with many wrought iron crosses, museums, and the original bakery of 1916 still using the same large oven. Since 1950, the Holzmann family has operated the bakery - Pandaderio San Jose.

Coronel Suarez is doing impressive work with historic preservation of structures in the three Volga German colonies, promotion of tourism, and publishing of books on the heritage of the Germans from Russia. The community is about 42,000 population.

Dr. Elio Krank of Colonia Baron, State of La Pampa, traveled to Coronel Suarez so that we could visit regarding coming to his town for filming in 2013. Colonia Baron and this area is where Catholic Beresan District families settled of the Black Sea. He shared many historic photographs. His ancestral roots are to Karlsruhe, Selz and Speyer of the Beresan villages. Near to Colonia Baron is also a Mennonite community where we will want to film for the documentary.

We had a meeting with Felix Meiller, writer for the Coronel Suarez newspaper. He agreed to assist us as an English translator when we return in 2013 to Coronel Suarez and to the State of La Pampa. There was also a press conference at the Argentina - Germany Association Club building. Local television and radio was there for questions about the documentary project.

We are deeply grateful especially to Daniel Minig and to Carlos Jose Villar of the Coronel Suarez city offices for their wonderful hospitality and planning this important visit to identify persons and locations for filming in 2013.

Today ended our travels to Germans from Russia community visits in Argentina and Brazil. Bob Dambach returns to Fargo, North Dakota on 22 February and I return on 27 February to Fargo. From 21-24 February, I will have meetings in Buenos Aires including Dr. Ricardo Nill who has ancestry to Beresina, Bessarabia.

The three weeks in Argentina and Brazil has truly been an amazing experience. We met more people and sites for filming than we could ever have imagined. The gracious help, kindnesses, and hospitality of our Germans from Russia community here in South America shall always be remembered. We are deeply grateful for their valuable assistance to make this documentary on the story of the Germans from Russia in South America become reality.

With best wishes from Buenos Aires, Argentina,


February 23, 2012

Hello from the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Buenos Aires!  The terrible train accident on 22 February has affected the lives of many people in this large city.

On 22 February, we met with Horacio Augustin Walter, President, and Juan Carlos Scheigel Huck, Vice President, Centro Agrentinoi Cultural Wolgadeutsche, Buenos Aires. We visited about the South American documentary project with future plans for filming in 2013 in Argentina and Brazil. Horacio and Juan provided additional information of the three first colony settlements for additional filming. We learned of their work and future plans including a data base of genealogical information. They are eager to assist with this important documentary project. The Germans from Russia in South America especially Argentina and Brazil are not as well organized with societies like in the USA - AHSGR and GRHS.

On 23 February, I will meet with Dr. Ricardo Nill, a relative to Richard Klein in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Nill has Beresina and Bessarabia ancestry. Dr. Nill who is an Artist is Director of Design in the College of Arts, Design and Science Culture, at a university in Argentina. He will bring other family members for our visit. He is well known for his drawings including books he has published.


February 27, 2012

Hello from Buenos Aires, Argentina with departure at 9:30 pm on Delta Airlines to Atlanta, Georgia - Minneapolis, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota with arrival on 28 February at 12:37 pm. It will be interesting to arrive with the new snowfall in Fargo. I leave Argentina with summer weather here. There will many challenges ahead to plan for the South American Germans from Russia documentary project for filming in 2013.


February 29, 2012

Wednesday morning hello. I am back safely in Fargo arriving at 12:30 pm on 28 February. Fortunately I arrived before the heavy snow and wind which is now in Fargo today. The Interstate 29 is closed from Fargo to Watertown, South Dakota to the south. Soon begins the work to review the February days in Argentina and Brazil, identifying the many digital photographs, and review plans for the South American documentary project.


March 2, 2012

Warmest regards on Friday, 2 March from the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo!
I arrived safely in Fargo on Monday, 28 February at 12:30 pm with the Delta Airlines flight leaving Buenos Aires at 9:30 pm on 27 February to Atlanta, Georgia – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Fargo, North Dakota.

I want to express my heartfelt appreciation and many thanks for the warm hospitality during our historic, impressive and unforgettable February days in Argentina and Brazil.  My fondest memories with be the many kindnesses, new friendship and the wonderful reception which Bob Dambach, director of television, Prairie Public Broadcasting, and I experienced.

Now the challenge becomes for Bob Dambach and me to review the hundreds of digital photographs and many notes to develop plans for the important project – the Germans from Russia in South America – Argentina & Brazil. We will begin reviewing plans to return to South America in 2013. We will let you know further details via email.

We will be developing webpages at the GRHC website of digital photographs of Argentina and Brazil of February, 2012.

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