Russian German Struggles, Sacrifices Brought to
"Russian German Struggles, Sacrifices Brought to Light." Forum, 5 August 1991, sec. 12B.
When Russian citizens of German decent left
their homes in the late 1800s to come to America, many lost their
possessions, friends, and relatives.
While they settled in North America, their counterparts in Russia
endured tragedies just being brought to light by perestroika.
Michael Miller, a North Dakota State University librarian and bibliographer
for the Germans from Russia Heritage Society which met over the
weekend in Minot, has learned of these hardships firsthand from
In one, a woman identified herself as Lena Dyck described her life
as an ethnic minority in the Soviet Union around 1930:
"There were terrible conditions; people were deported, everything
was left behind," she wrote. "Whoever had a good economically-going
farm was evacuated."
"(One) night during a cold winter about 1930 we were put
on cattle trains destined for the far, cold north deep into the
woods! I with other children were allowed to go back, but where
Her memories are not unusual. There are more than 2 million ethnic
Germans still living in the Soviet Union.
Most are willing to do nearly anything to get out, Miller said,
even though they will also suffer hardships in Germany, the destination
"For the freedom to worship, they’re leaving their
homes and land in the Soviet Union, even though they were much better
off economically there than they will be in Germany," Miller
The reason the Soviet Germans may face problems in their ethnic
homeland is because of the vast number of Germans who are trying
to return to the country after decades in exile.
With communist barriers down in most of Eastern Europe, ethnic
Germans from Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Soviet Union
are on long waiting lists to become German citizens. About 10,000
Soviet Germans alone immigrate to Germany each month, Miller said.
While Soviet Germans are desperately trying to get out, their American
and Canadian relatives are desperately trying to get in - to see
them in the "homeland."
Margaret Freeman of Santa Monica, Calif., has been to Germany several
times to research the history of the Gluckstal colonies that existed
in the Bessarabian region of the Soviet Union.
She said other countries are not as willing as the United States
to share genealogical information.
"They’re interested in control and not access,"
she said. "I faced two obstacles. Since I am a woman and do
not have my Ph.D., they figured I couldn’t possibly know what
to do with the records."
Many Germans from Russia living in the United States and Canada
would not find their "homeland" if they went to the
Soviet Union, Miller said.
Those from the Black Sea area would not even find cemeteries, he
said, because the Communists destroyed every remnant of the villages.
Bessarabian descendants would be luckier because many of their villages
remain relatively intact.
However, Miller said many of the records in the Soviet Union are
priceless and could piece together many family histories.
Gwen Pritzkau of Riverton, Utah, a genealogical expert for the
society, and families there and here should not give up the idea
of seeing lost relatives.
Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Fargo, North