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Ron Vossler, center, with his grandmother's cousin (in dark dress) and German neighbors in Gluckstal, Moldova

Vossler Meets Relatives While Researching in Former Soviet Union

Vossler, Ron. "Vossler Meets Relatives While Researching in Former Soviet Union." Wishek Star, 12 July 2000, 10.


Recently, while doing research for a forthcoming documentary movie on the Germans from Russia, Wishek native Ronald Vossler met and spoke with two of his relatives still living in what was formerly the Soviet Union.

Vossler, a senior lecturer in the English Department at the University of North Dakota and a free-lance writer, is the author of two award-winning documentary film scripts on the ethnic group: "Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe/Children of the Prairie" and "Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia."

In the rural village of Glueckstal, in what is now the country of Moldova, Vossler met Irma Augustina Martel. Irma's mother, Christina Boschee Martel, was a cousin of Vossler's grandmother, Justina Boschee Woehl, who lived in rural Wishek. The two sides of the Boschee family were separated at the time of their immigration to America, but kept contact through letters until the mid-1930s.

Speaking to Vossler in limited German dialect, Irma told of her life in exile in the former Soviet Union, in Tadjikistan, near the Chinese border, where her family of Germans living in Russia were forcibly exiled during World War II. Irma's mother, who died in Kazakstan at age 90, often spoke about the help they received during the 1920s and 1930s from the Boschee relatives in the Dakotas.

It was this help that kept them alive during the hardest times, during what is known as the "terror famine," Stalin's attempt to break the back of independent Ukrainian farmers, including Germans living in Russia at the time. Both of Irma's parents have numerous relatives among the Heupels, Martells and Boschees living in the Wishek area and throughout the Dakotas. In a recent car accident, she lost both her husband and her son. She now waits to immigrate to Germany to join her two siblings.

In Kassel, Ukraine, the ancestral village of the Boschees, Vossler also met and interviewed, through an interpreter, Ramon Fedorovich Kraemer. Kraemer was a cousin of Vossler's late step-grandmother, Mary Kraemer Fetzer, who lived in the Wishek and Venturia areas.

An elderly man now, Kraemer fought in the Russian Army under Gen. Chulkov and was wounded in the fight for Berlin during World War II. Other than a few phrases, like "sitzen sie," Kraemer has lost much of his ability to speak the old German dialect, mainly due to lack of contact with German speakers in the past years. His ancestral village, now populated by nationalities other than German, is several hours by car from Odessa, the last half-hour on a rough, washboarded gravel road.

Kraemer spoke of the forced grain requisitions during the collectivization period in 1933, which caused so much death in Kassel. During that time, he lost his teeth through malnutrition, but managed to survive, partly on help from American relatives. He had various Kraemer uncles who settled in the central Dakotas. His uncle, Jacob Kraemer, who lived in the Linton area sent money for food.

Kraemer says his main worry now is trying to support himself and his wife on a meager Army pension. With the continuing economic woes in the Ukrainian economy, he worries about his future. Kraemer is the last of the Kasselers, German settlers born and raised in that village. His worst fear is that once he dies, there will not be enough money to bury him in a wooden coffin.

Sponsored by the NDSU Libraries and Prairie Public Television, Vossler's trip allowed him to conduct oral interviews, as well as to gather research for future documentary projects.

Reprinted with permission of the Wishek Star.

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