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Families Find Missing Link - an Amazing Story

Iszler, Donna. "Families Find Missing Link - an Amazing Story." Grant County News, 3 February 1999, 1.


It was early morning when the unusual call came to Shirley Hochhalter, local postmaster, at New Leipzig, ND. An airport security guard relayed that a gentleman who spoke no English had been at the Bismarck airport for a day and a half and wanted to go to New Leipzig to find Alex Alt, a relative. He had repeatedly tried to call the number listed in the phone book to no avail. Could Shirley help locate a family member? Shirley called Matthew Alt, Alex's grandson. Matthew called his father, Ray, at MedCenter One, who with his brother and sisters had just said good-bye to their beloved mother, Emilia, Alex Alt's wife. Alex had died several years ago.

In the meantime, the airport security guard took the gentleman to the Ruth Meier's house. Ray picked him up there and discovered a long lost relative and a whole new branch to the family tree. His name is Alexander Horn. His grandmother and Ray's grandmother were sisters. Alexander's grandmother stayed in Russia while her two sisters immigrated to America. The families kept in touch, with Alex and Emilia Alt often sending clothing and medical supplies. Alexander remembers the medicine helping his lungs as a child. They lived in Kazakhstan in southern Russia. Later, probably as the cold war intensified, the families lost contact.

After "the wall" came down in East Germany, members of the Horn family moved back to Germany. They have been there five years now. Alexander lives in Schlusselfeld. His mother, one sister and two brothers live in Germany. Two brothers remain in Russia having married Russian women.

Alexander had obtained package address labels from his family members which had the return address of Alex Alt, New Leipzig, ND. These had been saved for about fifty years. He also had read an article in the Neues Leben, a German newspaper in Moscow. The article contained a letter possibly by Casy Alt, a cousin from America, who was researching his genealogy. Alexander had been working at a plastic factory and was recently unemployed. He decided now was the time to go to America and find his relatives.

Alexander traveled by train to Frankfurt, a fourteen hour commute, to get his ticket, planning to return and prepare for his trip. When he got to Frankfurt, he was told a flight would leave the next morning. Through some lack of communication, Alexander felt he had to take the morning flight and did not have time to go home and pack. So with his pockets stuffed full, the clothing on his back, a picture of his grandmother, and a lot of determination, Alexander flew to America.

Ray graciously took Alex to his home at New Leipzig. Ray did not understand why Alexander had no luggage and Alexander told him he left in a hurry. Ray had not spoken German for quite some time and was having a little trouble understanding why he left in a hurry. Ray and his wife Sharon, took Alexander to town to the Leipziger Hof, Where Heidi and Klaus Hinze, the German managers talked with him and were able to gather details of his trip. Heidi also helped Alexander call home to his mother and sister who were worried about him since he had left so quickly. They had already called the police and reported him missing.

It is ironic that Alexander arrived just at the time of Emilie Alt's death. Though it was a sad time, Alexander was able to meet many relatives whom he otherwise would not have met. They all brushed up on their German and were able to communicate fairly well. Alexander told about his life in Russia, about serving as a MP in the Russian military in Siberia for two years, about hunting in Russia and about having to leave his dog behind because it is too expensive to have a dog in Germany. Both Alexander and his father worked in the coal mines in Kazakhstan. During his stay at the Alt farm, he enjoyed going out to do chores with Ray and Matthew.

Though Alexander came with no camera, he left with many pictures. He was happy to finally find many of his relatives and they were amazed to meet him and learn of his family. When asked what he thought of America, he said "is goot".

Reprinted with permission of the Grant County News, Elgin, North Dakota.

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