In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo
As I write this March column, I prepare for travel in April to southern Brazil with Prairie Public Broadcasting staff for the final filming and interviews for the a new documentary on the story of the Germans from Russia in South America. I will travel with Bob Dambach, director of television, and two videographers. I will be involved with the interviews in the English and German languages. This will be the 8th documentary of Prairie Public’s award-winning Germans from Russia Series, and is expected to premiere in 2014.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, many Germans from Russia immigrated to South America, especially to southern Brazil and Argentina. At the same time, German-Russian families were immigrating to the Dakotas and the Northern Plains. Many of these Germans from Russia in Argentina have relatives in Canada and the USA.
In February 2012, Bob Dambach and I traveled to Argentina and Brazil for site visits and to identify persons to be interviewed including families of Volga, Mennonite, Volhynian, Black Sea and Bessarabian German ancestry. For articles and photographs of the February visit, go to http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/outreach/documentaries/sadocumentary.html.
In March 2012, Bob Dambach explained, “The things that impressed me most were the people and the landscapes. The people we met in Brazil and Argentina [in February 2012] were tremendously friendly, helpful and sincerely interested in their Germans from Russia heritage. The mingling of four languages (English, German, Portuguese and Spanish) seemed to be no hindrance to communication. Our route in Brazil brought back memories of traveling through central Pennsylvania with its photogenic valleys revealing themselves as we traveled westward. The people and landscape were truly amazing.”
I remember while in Argentina and Brazil in February, being able to communicate easily in the German language with many people in the dialect I learned growing up at Strasburg, N.D. There are wonderful comparisons of the German-Russian foods and recipes, including kuchen.
The GRHC has recently published, “Fellowship of the Sausage Ring: A Meditation on Wascht”, by Ron Vossler, a native of Wishek, N.D., well known for the famous homemade German-Russian sausage. Ron writes about traveling to his hometown and having sausage with his family. On the back cover of the publication appears: “There is likely nothing more integral to Germans from Russia culture on the prairie than sausage; and this essay Ron Vossler celebrates the various ways that wascht, or sausage, has been intertwined with his own, and his family’s life, over the past half century.”
“Vossler practices what he preaches, using a variety of ingredients, from his grandfather’s dream of Jesus, from high school basketball cheers, from homely prayers, and even from the ideas of a famous writer and a Russian scientist, to create a delectable essay that meditates on the meaning of sausage.”
Vossler writes: “The rising sun balanced on the horizon- my car barreled along the interstate and I placed my guilt, last minute cell-phone call to the grocery store in my old hometown of Wishek, North Dakota. ‘Fossler?’ a heavily accented male voice said. ‘Ok. We’ll haf your sausich ready about tree dis afternoon. All tirty fife rings.”
Leaving Wishek, Ron Vossler writes: “As I drove I pondered. How many reunions remained for us? And what would happen when the last of the Dakota German dialect speakers, the people from Wishek and Ashley and Lehr and Fredonia and Strasburg, were from from the earth…? I wondered, would there still be wascht if none of us were here to taste it?”
The GRHC has published a number of books authored by Ron Vossler including “Dakota Kraut”. He was the script writer and narrator, for Prairie Public’s award-winning documentary, “Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia”. For his books, go to http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/rvossler/rvosslerlist.html.
To secure “Fellowship of the Sausage Ring” call 701-231-6596 or go to http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/nd_sd/fotsr.html.
For further information about the Friends of the GRHC, the 19th Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany (May 16-26, 2013), and donations to the GRHC (such as family histories and photographs), contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 6050, Dept 2080, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 (Tel: 701-231-8416; Email: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu; the GRHC website: www.ndsu.edu/grhc).
March column for North Dakota and South Dakota weekly newspapers.