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Nelly Daes --Author, Storyteller, Helper, Fighter

Nelly Daes -- Autorin, Erzaehlerin, Helferin, Kaempferin

Kampen, Johann. "Nelly Daes; Author, Storyteller, Helper, Fighter." Volk auf dem Weg, January 2005, 14.

Translation from German to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


Nelly Daes
January, 2005 marked 70 years since her birth, and in March it will be 60 years since she arrived in Germany at the end of the third flight by the Schmidt family, who as early as 1935 had been branded "kulaks" and had been driven out of one part of the Soviet Union into the Eastern area surrounding the River Don, and who in 1944 were moved from the Ukraine, [still] occupied by the Germans, to the [Western Poland area of] the Warthegau. Each time the motivation was the fear of experiencing "special treatment" by the hand of Soviet organs.

Participating in each of the three escapes was Nelly, the youngest of three children of the family. Today the same Nelly, our very own Nelly Daes, is one of the best known personalities of Germans from Russia living here [in Germany]. She is not only known by all Germans from Russia who can still read German, but also by indigenous Germans who love to read stories based on personal experiences.

Nelly Daes became known particularly as a storyteller. Her talks at cultural events and on other public occasions, on the topic of Germans from Russia, as well as on her books and her life story, are equally parts amusing entertainment and instructive knowledge for young and old, for immigrants and residents from way back. Not least is this success due to her determination and diligence. Also, the fact that she has a lot of talent is obvious when one considers her many books that she has been able to publish despite her lack of formal academic education.

Her literary efforts began actually rather late in life. Her first book, "Woelfe und Sonnenblumen [Wolves and Sunflowers]," was published through the support of the Landsmannschaft. But after that, Nelly made a publication hit nearly every year, usually left to her own devices, but watched over by her husband, her family and genuine friends -- and occasionally envied by those who might have been considered friends. The book "Woelfe und Sonnenblumen" was followed by "Der Zug in die Freiheit [Train to Freedom]," "Mit Timofej durch die Taiga [Across the Taiga with Timofey]," "Schicksalsjahre in Siberia [Fateful Years in Siberia]," "Aljoscha -- ein Junge aus Kriwoj Rog [Alyosha -- A Boy from Krivoy Rog]," "Russlanddeutsche Pioniere im Urwald [German-Russian Pioneers in the Jungle]," "Alle Spuren sind verweht. Russlanddeutsche Frauen in der Verbannung Gone Without a Trace: German-Russian Women in Exile, now in English translation by Dr. Nancy Bernhardt Holland, published by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2001]," "Das Kochbuch der Deutschen aus Russland Cookbook for Germans from Russia, now in English translation by Alex Herzog, editing by Janice Huber Stangl, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, ND], "Der Schlittschuhclown [The Clown Skater]," "Lasst die Jugend sprechen [Give the Word to the Youth], "Emilie, Herrin auf Christiansfeld [Emilie, Governess of Christiansfeld," and many articles in publications of and beyond the Landsmannschaft. Nelly Daes' greatest success was the book "Das Maedchen vom Faehrhaus [The Girl from the Ferry Landing]," which served as the basis for the televised movie "Nadjas Heimkehr in die Fremde {Nadya's Return Home to a Strange Land]" (1996).

Books and talks are but one side of Nelly Daes. Within the Landsmannschaft she has become a fighter to represent the organization in public, and as a definitive fighter for the rights of her ethnic group at all levels. In that context, within the last twenty-four years she has become known nationwide as a representative for all matters regarding German-Russian women, and for an equally long time she has been in the leadership of our state organization (Baden-Wuerttemberg), and chair of the local chapters in Stuttgart and Waiblingen (her current home), where for five years she has been working actively in the community council of the CDU [German Christian Party].

Her "external political" activities have been aimed primarily toward countries in which she was able to help any and all German-Russians. Well remembered is her effort on behalf of Volga-German and Mennonite countrymen in South America (Quero-Quero and Witmarsum/Brazil) and on behalf of Germans in her own original home, the Ukraine. Nelly Daes has received all awards of merit the Landsmannschaft has to offer, she holds the Federal Order [Cross] of Merit from the Government, a Golden Pin of Merit from the government of Baden-Wuerttemberg and one from the German Red Cross.

Nelly Daes was born on January 8, 1930 in Friedental (South Ukraine). Her "normal" formal education suffered greatly from the effects of the war, evacuation to Poland, and a further escape to the West, where she landed in Waiblingen, completed training as a seamstress, and has lived ever since with her husband Walter, a daughter and four grandchildren, and where she continues to generate lots of energy. Her health, in her own words, is "in reasonable shape."

In that spirit, we of Volk auf dem Weg, as well as her untold number of fans everywhere, hereby extend out best wishes to Nelly Daes and the very best for a happy life and for continued successful work during the fourth quarter of her life.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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