Journey to the Homeland: Germany and Ukraine
North Dakota State University Libraries Tours
15 May 2001
Best regards from Chisinau, the capitol of the Republic of Moldova.
Just a note to let you know that all is well after arriving in Chisinau
on Monday afternoon, 14 May, from Vienna, Austria. I was greeted
by Leonid and Valentina Zerr. We visited the offices for Hoffnung,
the local German ethnic center in Chisinau to review the library
materials and meet local Germans. There is an emphasis here to study
the German language, culture, and history. It was challenging but
very interesting to speak in the German language and to explain
the story of the Dakotas' Germans from Russia. I was pleased that
many could understand the German language. I told them of the large
gathering of the Germans from Russia, the Bundestreffen,
which will take place on 2 June, at Stuttgart.
Some of the Germans here at the Hoffnung center told of the difficult
life of their ancestors who were sent to Siberia, Russia. After
the singing and greetings, persons introduced themselves including
the German villages of their ancestors. These included the Crimea,
Volga, Caucasus, and Odessa regions in southern Ukraine, Volhynia,
and Siberia. It was interesting to hear the village names of Glueckstal,
Franzfeld, Grossliebental and others. I was most impressed with
the warmth of the Moldovan hospitality.
Today I will visit a local bookstore for historical books and maps
and a textile shop, as well as the local church where the Germans
attend. On Wednesday, 16 May, I will travel by auto to Tiraspol,
Trans-Dniestr region, Moldova, to meet the Moser family and the
German community there.
More from Tiraspol, Moldova,
Michael M. Miller
17 May 2001
Tiraspol, Trans-Dniestr, Moldova
I am now in Tiraspol from 16-18 May. I travel on to Novosamarka
(former German village of Sofiental), near the Glueckstal District
villages and will stay there four nights with the Pratchuk family.
We will visit and photograph in the nearby villages including Marienberg.
On Thursday, 17 May, here in Tiraspol it was a busy day which included
a visit to the museum where I saw a very important publication of
the German colonists written in the Russian language. I also visited
the official state archives where I saw some valuable documents
of donated items from a Volga German family.
Teachers and students gathered at the Faculty of History of Tiraspol
University, where I spoke in English with a translator. This was
most interesting and a number of questions were asked. They are
interested to learn how they can locate additional materials for
research. I encouraged them to review websites, if possible, which
can be quite challenging in this city. I was presented with a book
of the history of Tiraspol and I presented to the university, maps
of the former German villages.
Finally, we drove to the nearby city of Bendery where we met with
the local German group. They were meeting for the first time in
their new room, whose $20 rent is paid monthly by the German government.
Here I met persons of Volhynian, Black Sea, Crimean, and Volga German
ancestry. Most interesting was Josef who was born in Mannheim, Kutschurgan
District, now living in Tiraspol. He spoke German well, the dialect
he learned in Mannheim in his youth before being sent to the Ural
Mountain region of Russia. He has a son who lives in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. This German group is very interested to receive maps
and other items since this is the first year they've been organized
as a group with contacts to the Hoffnung group in Chisinau. The
German group in Tiraspol was formed 10 years ago.
Josef told me that he makes $50 a month, and when he retires in
three years, he can expect to receive a pension the equivalent of
$10 US per month. The older generation expressed what great difficulty
it is to live in these times. Josef mentioned that his daughter
and her two children live at Saratov on the Volga where life is
also very difficult. If it were not for the son in Philadephia who
married an American, the family would be in great financial difficulty
both in Tiraspol and in Saratov. I wondered about the other people
attending this meeting here in Bendery who are not receiving help.
But the people are most friendly and were pleased to visit with
me in a German dialect similar to what they speak here in Tiraspol
and Bendery. The visit with the Germans at Bendery was truly a rewarding
and unforgettable experience.
My next message will come from an internet cafe in Odessa on 22
or 23 May, upon the arrival of our Journey to the Homeland Tour
Greetings from Tiraspol, Moldova,
Michael M. Miller
22 May 2001
Hello from the Internet Cafe in Odessa, Ukraine, near the Chorne
More Hotel. I wait for the arrival of the Journey to the Homeland
Tour group on Wednesday afternoon, 23 May, on Austrian Airlines
from Vienna, Austria. We will be in Odessa until 30 May, and then
fly to Stuttgart, Germany.
Briefly, here is where I visited from 18-22 May 2001:
On 18 May, I traveled from Tiraspol, Trans-Dniestr Region, Moldova,
with Pavel Pratchuk and Dr. Sergey Yelizarov to the Glueckstal District
villages. We visited and photographed the villages of Glueckstal,
Bergdorf and Neudorf. I had a chance to visit with the mayor of
Bergdorf. In Glueckstal, I met some of the German families with
whom former tour members stayed including the Wort and Kramerer
At the Glueckstal school, it was very interesting to meet with
the woman who is organizing a room for a museum/archives. They have
the Stumpp maps and other items presented to them in former tours
to Glueckstal. I was impressed how they want to preserve and inform
the children of the German colonists.
On Saturday, 19 May, we spent a long day photographing and filming
these villages: Malayevtsy, Friedentstal (Tirgrady), Hermanstal
(Vizhyno), Marienberg (Nagornoye), and Nesselrode (Kuyalnik). These
are former German villages near the Glueckstal District and of interest
to Glueckstalers. This was a very interesting day with wonderful
weather and the warm reception received in the villages.
On Sunday, 20 May, we spend another long day driving from Sofiental
to visit these villages: Kassel, Hoffnungstal (Tsebribovo), Neu-Glueckstal
(Tsybuliovka), and Neu-Beresina (Malo-Zimenovo).
I was very impressed with the German houses we photographed in
Kassel, Hoffnungstal, and Neu-Glueckstal. We were able to locate
the former German cemetery in Neu-Glueckstal which was covered with
lilac bushes but we did photograph some stones.
Monday, 21 May, included a visit to the schools in Novosamarka
(Sofiental of Black Sea villages), and the nearby larger school
at Krasny Okna, with 1,000 Students, where Pavel Pratchuk is the
On our drive to Odessa on 22 May, we stopped to visit the school
at Kutschurgan (former German village of Strassburg). There we met
with two of the three English teachers. The school has about 650
students including children from the German village of Baden, Kutschurgan
I stayed from 18-22 May with the Pratchuk family in Novosmarka
(Sofiental), which is located in Ukraine and near the Glueckstal
villages in Moldova.
It is quite an experience to stay in one of our German villages
and experience life that may have been similar to the time of the
German colonists. I was impressed with the large gardens and how
many Ukrainians are now hoeing. These were days I shall never forget.
We hope to email again from Odessa on 26 or 27 May.
Many best wishes from Odessa, Ukraine,
5 June 2001
Just a brief message to let you know that all went well with the
events in Stuttgart from 31 May to 5 June 2001.
The German-American Center in Stuttgart hosted a very nice event
on the evening of 31 May with many Germans and Americans attending.
There were many questions following my presentation about the Dakota
Germans from Russia. I also showed the introductory parts of the
Germans from Russia and Schmeckfest documentaries. The videotapes
and the book, "Plains Folk: North Dakota's Ethnic History",
were presented to Udo Rossbach and Annette Rukweid for the German
American Center Library.
The Bundestreffen on 2 June was attended by 22,000 persons. Many
came to the Amerika Haus information tables with photos, letters,
manuscripts, and diaries. Many Germans want to locate their Canadian
and American relatives. I had a chance to review many displays including
books for sale from authors. We were most appreciative of Americans
and Canadians who came by the tables and helped us with the German
speaking and translation work with so many persons asking questions.
The next Bundestreffen will be in June 2004.
Sunday, 3 June, was a wonderful day at the offices of the Landsmannschaft
der Deutschen aus Russland in Stuttgart. We were hosted by the Heimatklänge
Chor of Stuttgart who had a concert tour in July 1997 in North Dakota.
Their dream is to return someday to North Dakota for a second concert
Monsignor Joseph Senger of Minot, ND, a member of the Journey to
the Homeland Tour group, was a featured speaker at this Sunday event,
speaking in our traditional North Dakota German dialect. He had
also spoken at the Bundestreffen on Saturday, 3 June, in Stuttgart.
Monsignor Senger spoke of his memorable days visiting Odessa and
the German villages telling the story how he had been to Selz in
Ukraine and then on 1 June to Seltz in Alsace, France. He compared
them to where he was born on a farm near Orrin, Pierce County, ND,
which is near to Selz north of Harvey, ND. He mentioned that Selz
in North Dakota was formerly called Kandel, named after the village
in Ukraine near Odessa.
On Monday, 4 June (a Germany holiday), I traveled from Stuttgart
to Heidelberg with Dr. Johannes Derzap of Munich to meet with Georg
Hildebrandt. He is the author of a book written in German about
growing up in a Mennonite family and surviving the Soviet Union's
Gulag. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is in the process
of translating for publication this book. Mr. Hildebrandt will be
90 years old on 19 July 2001. We did a videotape interview with
Mr. Hildebrandt in the German language.
Today, 5 June, I visited the Heimatmuseum der Deutschen aus Bessarabien
where I was greeted by curator Ingo Isert and staff.
I travel via train to Augsburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Hannover
this week before returning to Fargo on Monday, 11 June 2001. In
Augsburg, I plan to meet with Johann and Hans Kampen, editors of
"Volk auf dem Weg", a monthly journal published by the
Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland in Stuttgart.
Many best wishes from Stuttgart,