Journey to the Homeland: Germany and Ukraine
North Dakota State University Libraries Tours

15 May 2001
Chisinau, Moldova

Best regards from Chisinau, the capitol of the Republic of Moldova. Just a note to let you know that all is well after arriving in Chisinau on Monday afternoon, 14 May, from Vienna, Austria. I was greeted by Leonid and Valentina Zerr. We visited the offices for Hoffnung, the local German ethnic center in Chisinau to review the library materials and meet local Germans. There is an emphasis here to study the German language, culture, and history. It was challenging but very interesting to speak in the German language and to explain the story of the Dakotas' Germans from Russia. I was pleased that many could understand the German language. I told them of the large gathering of the Germans from Russia, the Bundestreffen, which will take place on 2 June, at Stuttgart.

Some of the Germans here at the Hoffnung center told of the difficult life of their ancestors who were sent to Siberia, Russia. After the singing and greetings, persons introduced themselves including the German villages of their ancestors. These included the Crimea, Volga, Caucasus, and Odessa regions in southern Ukraine, Volhynia, and Siberia. It was interesting to hear the village names of Glueckstal, Franzfeld, Grossliebental and others. I was most impressed with the warmth of the Moldovan hospitality.

Today I will visit a local bookstore for historical books and maps and a textile shop, as well as the local church where the Germans attend. On Wednesday, 16 May, I will travel by auto to Tiraspol, Trans-Dniestr region, Moldova, to meet the Moser family and the German community there.

More from Tiraspol, Moldova,

Michael M. Miller

17 May 2001
Tiraspol, Trans-Dniestr, Moldova

I am now in Tiraspol from 16-18 May. I travel on to Novosamarka (former German village of Sofiental), near the Glueckstal District villages and will stay there four nights with the Pratchuk family. We will visit and photograph in the nearby villages including Marienberg.

On Thursday, 17 May, here in Tiraspol it was a busy day which included a visit to the museum where I saw a very important publication of the German colonists written in the Russian language. I also visited the official state archives where I saw some valuable documents of donated items from a Volga German family.

Teachers and students gathered at the Faculty of History of Tiraspol University, where I spoke in English with a translator. This was most interesting and a number of questions were asked. They are interested to learn how they can locate additional materials for research. I encouraged them to review websites, if possible, which can be quite challenging in this city. I was presented with a book of the history of Tiraspol and I presented to the university, maps of the former German villages.

Finally, we drove to the nearby city of Bendery where we met with the local German group. They were meeting for the first time in their new room, whose $20 rent is paid monthly by the German government. Here I met persons of Volhynian, Black Sea, Crimean, and Volga German ancestry. Most interesting was Josef who was born in Mannheim, Kutschurgan District, now living in Tiraspol. He spoke German well, the dialect he learned in Mannheim in his youth before being sent to the Ural Mountain region of Russia. He has a son who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This German group is very interested to receive maps and other items since this is the first year they've been organized as a group with contacts to the Hoffnung group in Chisinau. The German group in Tiraspol was formed 10 years ago.

Josef told me that he makes $50 a month, and when he retires in three years, he can expect to receive a pension the equivalent of $10 US per month. The older generation expressed what great difficulty it is to live in these times. Josef mentioned that his daughter and her two children live at Saratov on the Volga where life is also very difficult. If it were not for the son in Philadephia who married an American, the family would be in great financial difficulty both in Tiraspol and in Saratov. I wondered about the other people attending this meeting here in Bendery who are not receiving help. But the people are most friendly and were pleased to visit with me in a German dialect similar to what they speak here in Tiraspol and Bendery. The visit with the Germans at Bendery was truly a rewarding and unforgettable experience.

My next message will come from an internet cafe in Odessa on 22 or 23 May, upon the arrival of our Journey to the Homeland Tour group.

Greetings from Tiraspol, Moldova,

Michael M. Miller

22 May 2001
Odessa, Ukraine

Hello from the Internet Cafe in Odessa, Ukraine, near the Chorne More Hotel. I wait for the arrival of the Journey to the Homeland Tour group on Wednesday afternoon, 23 May, on Austrian Airlines from Vienna, Austria. We will be in Odessa until 30 May, and then fly to Stuttgart, Germany.

Briefly, here is where I visited from 18-22 May 2001:

On 18 May, I traveled from Tiraspol, Trans-Dniestr Region, Moldova, with Pavel Pratchuk and Dr. Sergey Yelizarov to the Glueckstal District villages. We visited and photographed the villages of Glueckstal, Bergdorf and Neudorf. I had a chance to visit with the mayor of Bergdorf. In Glueckstal, I met some of the German families with whom former tour members stayed including the Wort and Kramerer families.

At the Glueckstal school, it was very interesting to meet with the woman who is organizing a room for a museum/archives. They have the Stumpp maps and other items presented to them in former tours to Glueckstal. I was impressed how they want to preserve and inform the children of the German colonists.

On Saturday, 19 May, we spent a long day photographing and filming these villages: Malayevtsy, Friedentstal (Tirgrady), Hermanstal (Vizhyno), Marienberg (Nagornoye), and Nesselrode (Kuyalnik). These are former German villages near the Glueckstal District and of interest to Glueckstalers. This was a very interesting day with wonderful weather and the warm reception received in the villages.

On Sunday, 20 May, we spend another long day driving from Sofiental to visit these villages: Kassel, Hoffnungstal (Tsebribovo), Neu-Glueckstal (Tsybuliovka), and Neu-Beresina (Malo-Zimenovo).

I was very impressed with the German houses we photographed in Kassel, Hoffnungstal, and Neu-Glueckstal. We were able to locate the former German cemetery in Neu-Glueckstal which was covered with lilac bushes but we did photograph some stones.

Monday, 21 May, included a visit to the schools in Novosamarka (Sofiental of Black Sea villages), and the nearby larger school at Krasny Okna, with 1,000 Students, where Pavel Pratchuk is the director.

On our drive to Odessa on 22 May, we stopped to visit the school at Kutschurgan (former German village of Strassburg). There we met with two of the three English teachers. The school has about 650 students including children from the German village of Baden, Kutschurgan District.

I stayed from 18-22 May with the Pratchuk family in Novosmarka (Sofiental), which is located in Ukraine and near the Glueckstal villages in Moldova.

It is quite an experience to stay in one of our German villages and experience life that may have been similar to the time of the German colonists. I was impressed with the large gardens and how many Ukrainians are now hoeing. These were days I shall never forget. We hope to email again from Odessa on 26 or 27 May.

Many best wishes from Odessa, Ukraine,


5 June 2001
Stuttgart, Germany

Just a brief message to let you know that all went well with the events in Stuttgart from 31 May to 5 June 2001.

The German-American Center in Stuttgart hosted a very nice event on the evening of 31 May with many Germans and Americans attending. There were many questions following my presentation about the Dakota Germans from Russia. I also showed the introductory parts of the Germans from Russia and Schmeckfest documentaries. The videotapes and the book, "Plains Folk: North Dakota's Ethnic History", were presented to Udo Rossbach and Annette Rukweid for the German American Center Library.

The Bundestreffen on 2 June was attended by 22,000 persons. Many came to the Amerika Haus information tables with photos, letters, manuscripts, and diaries. Many Germans want to locate their Canadian and American relatives. I had a chance to review many displays including books for sale from authors. We were most appreciative of Americans and Canadians who came by the tables and helped us with the German speaking and translation work with so many persons asking questions. The next Bundestreffen will be in June 2004.

Sunday, 3 June, was a wonderful day at the offices of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland in Stuttgart. We were hosted by the Heimatklänge Chor of Stuttgart who had a concert tour in July 1997 in North Dakota. Their dream is to return someday to North Dakota for a second concert tour.

Monsignor Joseph Senger of Minot, ND, a member of the Journey to the Homeland Tour group, was a featured speaker at this Sunday event, speaking in our traditional North Dakota German dialect. He had also spoken at the Bundestreffen on Saturday, 3 June, in Stuttgart. Monsignor Senger spoke of his memorable days visiting Odessa and the German villages telling the story how he had been to Selz in Ukraine and then on 1 June to Seltz in Alsace, France. He compared them to where he was born on a farm near Orrin, Pierce County, ND, which is near to Selz north of Harvey, ND. He mentioned that Selz in North Dakota was formerly called Kandel, named after the village in Ukraine near Odessa.

On Monday, 4 June (a Germany holiday), I traveled from Stuttgart to Heidelberg with Dr. Johannes Derzap of Munich to meet with Georg Hildebrandt. He is the author of a book written in German about growing up in a Mennonite family and surviving the Soviet Union's Gulag. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is in the process of translating for publication this book. Mr. Hildebrandt will be 90 years old on 19 July 2001. We did a videotape interview with Mr. Hildebrandt in the German language.

Today, 5 June, I visited the Heimatmuseum der Deutschen aus Bessarabien where I was greeted by curator Ingo Isert and staff.

I travel via train to Augsburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Hannover this week before returning to Fargo on Monday, 11 June 2001. In Augsburg, I plan to meet with Johann and Hans Kampen, editors of "Volk auf dem Weg", a monthly journal published by the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland in Stuttgart.

Many best wishes from Stuttgart,


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