Retracing Their Steps Area Women Travel to Germany and Russia to Explore Heritage
Cantlon, Cleo. "Retracing Their Steps Area Women Travel to Germany and Russia to Explore Heritage." Minot Daily News, 2 June 1996 .
The first two "Journey to the Homelands" tour to Germany and Russia
are expeditions of discovery, not of a new world, but the old world
which produced ancestors of many North Dakotans.
LaRose Detterling of Mercer and Rollin and Ione Metz of Minot
will join the first tour, which leaves from Minneapolis June 8.
Tour director Michael M. Miller, Germans from Russia bibliographer
at North Dakota State University Libraries said a second group leaves
Miller said tour members will visit different villages. "Some
want to see former Lutheran villages, while others' ancestors came
from German Catholic villages."
"A visit to the Ukraine and our ancestral villages is an answer
to a dream," Ketterling said. The retired dietitian will visit Borodino
and Hoffnungstal villages in Bessarabia and Gluckstal and Kassel
in the Gluckstal enclave. Three of her grandparents, born in South
Russia, arrived in South Dakota in 1884 and 1889. Her father's family
came to Mercer in 1906.
The visited the former Soviet Union in 1976 and got as close as
Kiev, but the political climate at the time made it impossible to
travel to her family's villages.
"Genealogy had been my fervent hobby for many years because of
my father's interest in it," Ketterling said. "My grandmother taught
me to read and write German and I have a minor in German from UND,"
Minot business owners Rollin and Ione Metz and other members of
their family will visit ancestral homes now located in southern
Ukraine: Alt-Elft, Arzis, Borodino, Beresina, Brienne, Friedensfeld,
Katzbach, Klostitz and Krasna in Bessarabia.
The Metz group, originally from the Garrison area, also will include
former Minoter Gerald "Jerry" Metz and his wife Johanna of Tempe,
Ariz., and his son Ron Metz of LaHabra, Calif.
Rollin and Ione Metz are in the retail liquor business in Minot
and the retail business in Arizona where they spend winters.
A difficult identity
Jerry Metz commented it was hard to have a strong sense of ethnic
identity in America during the world wars when German ancestors
were "not something to brag about" and ir wasn't cool to be Russian
during the Cold War.
Finally, in the 1970s, with Ron Metz's growing interest in family
history, the Metzes began to remember the stories and seek the facts.
The Metz grandparents and Rollin and Jerry's father, Christian,
all born in Bessarabia, homesteaded in Coleharbor in 1905.
Ketterling, who taught at UND, has helped collect school supplies
for Ukrainian children. Miller said generosity of people who heard
about the needs in those classrooms has outstripped suitcase space
of tour members who will take supplies in luggage. He said remaining
supplies will be delivered to schools another way.
On June 22, Homelands Journey tourists will take part in the Bundestreffen
German-Russian gathering in Stuttgart, Germany, where about 70,000
people are expected. Many of them will be ethnic Germans returning
from Siberia and Kazahkstan who hope to contact North American relatives
from whom they were separated by the wars.
Miller and NDSU Libraries will sponsor the "America House for
the Black Sea Germans" with music and presentations by tour group
Miller is taking advantage of opening of travel and records in
the former Soviet Union to visit and learn about German-American
ties. In addition to upcoming exhibits of the Kempf family display,
"Germans from Russia Weavers on the Dakota Prairies," the historian
wants to borrow family pictures. "We are trying to collect photographs
of weddings, homemaking, farming, military and family photos while
they are still available to us," he said.
Other Homeland tours are planned for May and the autumn of 1997,
Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News and Cleo