We'll Meet Again in Heaven

Review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota

Vossler, Ronald Julius. We’ll Meet Again in Heaven: Germans in the Soviet Union Write Their American Relatives. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 2001.

This thirty-minute video opens with an introduction by Ron Vossler standing before the Wishek, North Dakota water tower. He grew up there within a rural German Russian culture slowly becoming Americaized. But not all was idyllic. Vossler has explored “the blood-dark corridors of my own ethnic heritage.” Wishek and many other German Russian communities were in letter contact with   relatives who had remained in Russia. Only one in four had emigrated, after all, pushed by a shortage of land (every one expected to farm) and pulled by the promises of the new world.

The yearning to be together with separated family, severe as it was, soon was displaced by stories of astonishing suffering. With the advent of communism in 1919, American relatives began to receive what have become known as “sorrow letters.” In 1929, with the beginning of ideologically-driven collectivization, conditions became genuinely desperate. Villages were systematically stripped of food to send to the industrializing Soviet cities. Then there was war on the people themselves during the 1930s as many were driven from their homes and children were left abandoned and hungry. The letter-writing of itself was perilous, but many letters that did arrive were published (often without names) in German-language publications. American relatives responded by writing letters and sending packages of food, but not everything got through.

This would be an excellent video to use at a history or heritage group meeting. Persons not inclined to read Vossler’s books in which he reprints and interprets dozens of these letters, will receive basic
information. There is a clip of Vossler interacting with Ukrainians during a recent trip there, and survivors now living in Lodi, California and Tucson, Arizona speak on camera. Current and archival
pictures give an image of the people and countryside. Get the video even if you have read the books  This reviewer has read both books, and the video makes one feel closer to the people.

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