2001 Memories of Tour Members

29 May 2001
Odessa, Ukraine

Special regards from Odessa, Ukraine.

On Tuesday, 29 May, tour members travel to visit the Liebental villages of Alexanderhilf and Peterstal. They will see the German resettlement sites with homes at these locations. At Peterstal, a Lutheran church has also been built with assistance from Germany. They will be passing by Grossliebental, Kleinliebental, Josefstal, and Mariental of the Liebental District villages. Alexanderhilf is where Dr. Karl Stumpp was born and raised. When I was in Tiraspol for 16-18 May with the Moser family, I learned that he has a niece living in this city but unfortunately does not speak German.

This evening we have our farewell dinner at the Chorne More Hotel with the group tour and guests including Dr. Sergey Yelizarov, Lilia Belousova of the Odessa State Archives, Elvira Zahorova of Odessa Intourist, Dr. Pavel Anselm, a dentist; Dimitry Bratan, Jr., a student; and Vladimir Kravchenko of Lufthansa Airlines.

On 30 May, we fly via Austrian Airlines from Odessa to Frankfurt and then take a Binder Travel bus to Stuttgart, Germany. Tour members will visit the Linden Museum on 31 May, hosted by Dr. Sonja Schierele, curator of the North American collections. There is a special exhibit on the Plains Indians featuring borrowed items from the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the Three Affiliated Tribes, Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, in western North Dakota. On Thursday evening, 31 May, tour members and other Americans will visit the German American Center (Deutsches Amerikanisches Zentrum) in Stuttgart for the presentation I will make on the "Germans from Russia of the Dakotas".

There are a number of Americans coming to Stuttgart to stay with us at the Hotel Royal for the Bundestreffen on 2 June 2001. They include: Thomas and Janice Huber Stangl, Sterling, VA; Bob and Margaret Aman Freeman, Redondo Beach, CA; Ed and Doris Bischoff; Mesa, AZ; Gerry Walth Sommer, Mesa, AZ; Rosemary Ripplinger Schwan, Devils Lake, ND; Mary Jaeger Marando, Crown Point, IN; and Harold Ehrman, Pacific Palisades, CA. Saturday, 2 June, is large Germans from Russia gathering called the Bundestreffen, where 40 to 50 thousand people will attend, many who have immigrated to Germany since 1990 as Germans from Kazakhstan, Siberia, Russia, and Ukraine. We will host the Amerika Haus information tables. On Sunday, 3 June, the tour group along with the other Americans will be with the Heimat Chor of Stuttgart (German-Russian Choir) for a concert and reception at the Haus der Heimat Baden Wuerttemberg. The choir visited North Dakota in July 1997, including the Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention at Jamestown, ND. Their dream for the future is again to return to North Dakota for a concert tour including Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada. Tour members return to the USA on Monday, 4 June.

Let me share with you messages from tour members of their visit to the orphanage at the former German village of Landau, Beresan District, on Monday, 28 May 2001. We also visited the churches at Speyer, Landau, and Karlsruhe. The former Catholic church at Karlsruhe from a distance is quite overwhelming and the size of a large cathedral. We will share photos of our days in the former German villages and at the Landau orphanage with new GRHC website pages to be available for viewing later this summer of 2001.

Warmest regards to all from Odessa, Ukraine, as we soon say good-bye from the land of our ancestors,

Michael M. Miller

Messages from tour members:

Eileen Dick Aafedt
Munich, North Dakota

"Enjoying this trip and seeing some beautiful fields of grains, especially wheat. Going to the children's orphanage at Landau is something each of us anticipated, as we had purchased items and brought suitcases of quilts along from North Dakota. The children were so disciplined and happy. Teachers and children welcomed us and put on a nice program and presented us with gifts of pictures they had painted. I received a wall hanging a girl had made. There certainly was an air of excitement and we were treated to a large dinner. Even though poor, by our standards, they give the best they have."

Father Joseph Senger
Minot, North Dakota

"Today we visited the orphanage at Landau. For 15 years, I was pastor of a Catholic school. But today I was moved by the orphanage student body. They had such poise and talent, and politeness. I have never seen a group of students so well mannered. The program they presented was inspiring, enjoyable and uplifting. It was evident that the enthusiasm of the staff filtered down to the students. The teachers showed such enthusiasm in their work and career. I simply was not prepared to see such excellence in Ukraine. Every effort we make to help this orphanage will have wonderful effects."

Milo Thomas
Fargo, North Dakota

I was quite amazed at the extent of preparation the Landau orphanage children and teachers completed to show their appreciation for our visit. It was clear that everyone had prepared for this day for a long time. The most amazing was a concert the children and teachers put on for us. Some performed while others watched with us. I tried to imagine what was going through their little minds.

Each teacher prepared a wonderful dish as part of an exquisite meal. The entire tour group was overwhelmed with such great hospitality.

It was questionable at first as to whether I wanted to visit such a place. After having done so, I would not have missed it. The things that we Americans take for granted are not even a dream for these children: such as hot and cold running water, toys with which to play, or even a lap to comfort them from a frightening dream.

West and Loretta Pflieger
Quinter, Kansas

"Hello to our family back home! Sunday was a more relaxed day. We walked to Church of the Assumption for 9 am Mass. The church is only about one-third renovated but what is done is extremely beautiful. After Mass, we went to the Black Sea beaches, a Russian Orthodox church, and dinner at a lovely Ukrainian cafe. Then we went to the park for shopping and an evening Russian folklore concert at the concert hall. A great day.

Monday was the visit to Landau orphanage. What an emotional experience! After a traditional greeting with bread and salt, we were given a tour of the classrooms and dormitories. Then a program was held by the children and teachers of singing and dancing. One little girl sang a song in English and a boy recited an English poem. The children are so precious!

All dressed up in their best clothes; they appear like any other children, but their lives are very different. They gave us gifts of their artwork, and they are very talented. After a wonderful meal prepared by the teachers including borscht and kaseknoepfla (cheese buttons), we opened the boxes and suitcases with gifts from so many of you. I have many pictures to share. Thank you all! God bless all!"

Mary Steger Carpenter
Owasso, Oklahoma

"Today I cried! The walk around the abandoned church at Landau where my grandmother Lemmer was baptized brought tears. After seeing all the terrible ruins of the Catholic church, this was a gift from God. Eileen Aafedt and Loretta Turner were my "comfort shoulders". The ruins of the cemetery where my great-grandparents are buried was also visited. Landau will ALWAYS be extra special. The orphanage was as usual, a sea of clean well-mannered children. The staff are true angels. But that is another story!

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