2000 Memories of Tour Members

Tuesday, 13 June 2000
Internet Cafe, Odessa, Ukraine

Our last message from Odessa before we leave for Vienna, Austria and Stuttgart, Germany on 14 June. Tour members return to USA from Stuttgart on 19 June. Tour members are doing well. Temperatures have gotten quite well in Odessa. This will be our last message from tour members from Odessa, Ukraine in June, 2000.

--- Michael M. Miller

Messages from tour members:

Christ and Ann Lesmeister Klein
Carrington, North Dakota
[visiting the Kutschurgan and Liebental villages]

"This tour has been a great experience for us. It has opened our eyes to what our ancestors went through before they immigrated to America. Thank God they did otherwise we also would have the hardships these people experienced and are still experiencing today. For many, their children have little to look forward to unless they get to a large city and go to college someplace. We are glad to have taken this tour. What a great history lesson this has been with our own eyes".

--- Christ and Ann Klein

Agatha Doll Madison
Missoula, Montana
[visiting the Beresan villages] [Aggie was a member of the June, 1996 tour also]

"The second time around is even a more rewarding experience than the first trip in 1996. This second trip to Odessa and the Beresan villages we see more newer cars, improved sidewalks, window displays with clothes, computers, washers and dryers. The hotel has a casino, improved dining facilities, and a fitness center with new pool. The flea market in the park is still selling art.

In the rural villages there is little change. Life with a garden and poultry in every yard. Women still milk the cows. We saw more horse-drawn carts. This is haying time in the Beresan villages.

The people appear less fearful with more good mornings and smiles. They even acknowledge the existence of the early German settlers. In Karlsruhe, there is a new museum dedicated to the early German settlers, with good information of pictures, names, early homes, handy works and artifacts".

--- Aggie Madison

Bettsy Madison Williams
Missoula, Montana
[visiting the Beresan villages]
[Bettsy joined her mother Aggie for the second trip to Odessa and the Beresan villages. She was a member of the June, 1996 tour.]

"The most exciting experience of this journey was visiting the orphanage in Landau, my grandmother's village. The Shirokolanovka orphanage houses 153 children most of whom are "slow" due to vision, hearing, growth, or other health impairments. The government provides only food for the children. The rest of their needs must be met by charity of which there is little in this poor, remote village. They have had not new bed linens since 1991. There is a desperate need for winter clothing and footwear. The orphanage was most grateful for the gifts and donations we brought. The donations we gave will help pay for the bus and gasoline to take the children to a summer camp on the Black Sea. The kind, loving teachers say their orphans are "the most beautiful in the world." We hope to share with you their pictures on a web page so you may see these lovely children. We promised we would not forget them."

--- Bettsy Williams

Ron Vossler
East Grand Forks, Minnesota
[visiting the Glueckstal villages]

"Full days of travel and interviews, in Ukraine and Moldova. I spoke with the last of the Kasselers, an old man who is my grandmother's cousin - and he remembered the letters and help sent from Dakota relatives to South Russia during the 1933 famine, which he called "Holodonov," man-made famine.

I also interviewed a Ukrainian writer, whose book (in Ukrainian) examines the history of the Catholic German villages.

In the Glueckstal colonies (Glueckstal, Neudorf and Kassel), I spoke with the relatives, and also heard villagers mention a variety of names still heard in the Wishek, North Dakota, area - Martel, Heupel, Boschee, and Kramer.

The world of the German colonists is fast fading - so I am thankful to have come here again, and to have spoken with those who still remember that world."

--- Ron Vossler

Percy and Lorraine Brossart Zeiler
Didsbury, Alberta
[visiting the Liebental villages]

"On Monday, June 12, was the highlight of our village tours. We got to see Mariental (Liebental District), the church, and school that my father, Roy Zeiler, attended. The cemetery, where his parents and some family are buried, even through the grave stones were in ruins is still so interesting and precious to have seen. We walked the streets where my father lived, but his home is no longer there. It was destroyed by flood waters of the creek that was near their property.

We found George Lowenstein (in his 80s), who remembered Leopold Zeiler who lives in the Zeiler house. In the village, many of the former German homes are still there, but occupied by Ukrainians and Russians.

Our map of Mariental was very helpful in locating the areas of interest. It is hard to describe the feelings we had, knowing this is where my dad lived with his parents and family. It felt as though we went back 70 years in time. We are very fortunate that my dad made this huge decision at age 17 to leave his entire family and immigrate to Canada in 1927, knowing he would never see them again. We hope that my brothers or their families will travel here and experience what we have seen and heard".

--- Percy and Lorraine Zeiler

Roger and Shirley Hauff Branning
Bismarck, North Dakota
[Visiting the Bessarabian and Beresan villages]

"On our village tours, an echo of the past, presents itself as we walked on the streets where our ancestors walked. We can hear the sounds of busy people, geese, turkeys, and chickens in the yards. The taste of homemade wine, cheese, bread, and wurst in the kitchens of German built homes, and the smell of fresh country air tell us that these are our roots.

We are grateful to the Ukrainians who show respect and concern for the preservation of our heritage as they lead us through cemeteries, remains of churches, and archives. The guides, drivers, and staff of Intourist have been supportive and in our searches for ancestral markings. This experience will remain forever in our hearts and memories."

--- Roger and Shirley Branning

Violet Miller Ehlers
Lodi, California
[visiting the Glueckstal villages]

"Going to Neudorf and visiting the Lutheran church where my father, John M. Miller, was born, baptized, and confirmed was so great. The church remained the same as the picture. The Russian Orthodox are restoring the former Lutheran church in Neudorf as funds permit.

We also went to the lot where the Miller home once stood and took a picture.

My dad left for America in 1908 - landed in Boston knowing one English word - Apple!

How hard it must have been to leave Neudorf. The countryside is so beautiful. I never imagined it would be like this. It has been a very emotional two days visitings the Glueckstal villages and staying with the Krammerers in Glueckstal. Dr. Sergey Yelizarov was of such help and he is the greatest."

--- Violet Ehlers

Charles and Melinda Herman Snell
Bismarck, North Dakota
[visiting the Glueckstal villages]

"We are having a great experience. Intake is great - output is another story! The countryside is vast and beautiful. The people struggle with the economics, but are kind and wonderful to us. Odessa is bustling and an exciting city that goes all night. The contrasts are extreme and the experience is like nothing we have ever known. We have stories to share!


--- Charles and Melinda Snell

Herbert Herman Sr.
Gackle, North Dakota
[visiting the Glueckstal villages]

"Greetings to all. I have nothing to complain about and everything is fine. I am enjoying this tour and have had some good experiences to relate when we meet again."

--- Herbert Herman, Sr.

Eugene and Joyce Baer
Waukesha, Wisconsin
[visiting the Crimean villages]

"We returned on 12 June from four wonderful days in Crimea, Ukraine. We will share much more when we return to USA, but here is a brief overview:

We visited six villages in two days: Alexandertal (north of Simperofol), Ablesch, and Alexandertal (north of Zuerichtal in eastern Crimea), Zuerichtal, Neustatz, and Rosental.

We also met and talked with a former resident of Zuerichtal (a German woman), two Russian people in Rosental, and three people connected with the German organizations: a man named Boris (head of the German organization, Mr. Remmer, and Mr. Emmerich, all in Yalta. These contacts may turn out to be very important for Crimean visitors and for information on Crimean German ancestors and villages. For instance, Boris told us of a village in north central Crimea where about 250 Germans who returned after being deported in the 1930s and 1940s and now live there.

As I said, more to follow."

--- Gene and Joyce Baer

Anna Marie Gulke Hajek
Everett, Washington
[visiting the Beresan villages]

"We were eager to go to Worms as this is where our maternal grandparents, Adam Weidenbach, and Emelia Frances, were born, reared, and married.

I am unable to put into words the emotions we felt as we entered the church where they were baptized, confirmed, and married."

--- Anna Marie Hajek

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