At Home In Russia, At Home On The Prairie

[piano plays softly] (male narrator) What causes a region, a place, to imprint itself upon the people who are born and live there? What is the connection between landscape and memory; what is forgotten, what is remembered? How may a territory endure in the minds of the descendants of those inhabitants after years, even after generations have passed? (woman) “Fern im Sued am schoenen Kutschurgan, Dort wo die Taeler grun und Blumen reichlich…” “Far to the South on the lovely Kutschurgan Where the vales are green and flowers throng, Where the song of birds in the woods resounds, There is my home, the land for which I long.” ¦ (woman) Funding is provided by NDSU Libraries ¦ (male narrator) It is not a mighty river that flows gently into its broad lagoon only to disappear, seeping almost imperceptibly into the nearby Black Sea The Kutschurgan Valley lifts from the eastern bank of the river a distance of some 40 to 50 miles northwest of Odessa, punctuated by 6 once German villages, dazzling fields of grain, abundant vineyards, fruit trees and gardens The land is fertile The Germans who settled the area are largely gone now, scattered in a Diaspora of forced migration through difficult decades of political unrest and change And though the region no longer exists as when the Germans lived there, it endures in the minds of the people, lingering fragilely, “Da haam in Russland,” “Back home in Russia.” (woman) “Dort wo der Vogelsang erschallet durch die Waelder,” “Where the song of birds in the woods resounds, There is my home, the land for which I long.” (Joseph Senger) I remembered from my childhood, my parents always said we had such beautiful crops at home in the Ukraine, although they always said at home in Russia But I was very, very surprised and very pleased to see the beautiful vegetation As soon as we got to Odessa– the trees! Every street was lined with trees, and many of the streets had arches; the trees meeting on top– so beautiful, beautiful; and the vegetation, I was impressed so much with that When we saw the fields and the crops, I finally realized why our parents said we had such beautiful crops Things grew so well in the Ukraine They missed home a lot I used to ask my dad, “Why didn’t a lot of people go back?” He said nobody had enough money to go back (narrator) Without the memories of familial discourse, there would be no shared collective history, partial and fallible as it may be The memory of the Kutschurgan brings back days before the Russian revolution, before collectivization, before the starvation years of the 1920s and ’30s Viewed from a distant time and a distant place, it conjures Arcadian, romantic visions Yet people construct their personal sense of identity relating in some complex way to a faraway homeland We had a nice home, there was what you call a Vorderstube, (a front room) and a side room Ma used to sleep in the front room and we girls In the middle was the kitchen and the entrance We had two rooms at the back, one for Joseph and one the younger girls was sleeping in Behind that was the barn, there was the chicken coop and the two cows we had and the little pigs we had I would say it was about 75 feet this way and it had a sandstone entrance Der Giebel (the gable) used to be with stone On the way down we had a garden, an Obstgarten (orchard), all kinds of apples, Pflaumen (plums), peaches, and what they used to call Helmehitsche, where we had the straw and oats in for the cows and for the horses we had

But then later on when Communists took over we couldn’t have it– just one cow, that’s about it Oh yah, summer Kueche and the Keller (the cellar) where you went down Ours was about 10 feet down, 10 steps down where we had all our watermelon, apples, sauerkraut and cucumbers and everything for the winter That we had all down there The smoked meat we hung up in the attic, you know We made our own [dried] fruit by cutting apples and pears and grapes and laid them on the roof and let it dry Then we put it in sacks and hung it, and we made compote where they cooked it like fruit We had flowers around, and like in Germany they have the geraniums in the window That we had too A lot of flower gardens, raised our own flowers and stuff (Joseph Senger) I couldn’t understand how they could grow grapes, because the country was basically the same as ours in terms of latitude and weather However, practically every house has a trellis with grapes growing up the trellis That to me that was very moving to see grapes grow so beautifully Of course, there they have crops like we do here: corn, potatoes, and wheat My dad and his brothers and sisters, when they visited, they spoke a lot about growing up in, as they say, in Russia, in the Ukraine They had lots of stories about their childhood and they always talked about the great crops they had in the Ukraine So they often talked about the beautiful crops they had at home As they said, “At home in Russia;” “Da Haam in Russland.” (woman) “In der Heimat meiner Jugend Glueck Hab ich mein Leben wie im Traum verbracht.” “In the homeland of my happy youth I spent my life as in a dreamy state; From the Creator’s hand it was bestowed, I left it only by the power of fate.” (narrator) “The power of fate.” In 1884, the first settlers from the Kutschurgan left for America As the Russian government took back privileges granted the German Colonists long ago by Czar Alexander, the Germans were forced to give up their native language and learn Russian Worse yet, they were now liable for military service, and at risk of being drafted into the dreaded Russian army My grandfather, when they left Russia, had 5 sons My father was the eldest of those; he was 16 years old So one of the factors that made them come to America was that he was going to be supplying the Russian Army with recruits for the next 20 years! With all those sons, and they objected to that He didn’t want that And you’ll find that there were a lot of immigrants who came about the same time as he did– he came around 1900– there were some who came a little earlier than that and some later But in all cases the military service law was one of the factors It wasn’t the only one, because some of them came because they heard about the free land over here and so on (Barbara Schneider Risling) Father talked about how nice it was The fruit they had was so nice until they said, “There’s a war coming up, and it’s going to be real bad.” So they thought, they heard it was such a nice country in America and not settled at all They brought a lot of people, and they started migrating over, and they all came over to America They landed in the States (narrator) The image of America played well with a dissatisfied people As many left, others soon followed Boatloads arrived in America between 1885 and 1920 (Adam Giesinger) There was advertising in Odessa. Oh yes That brought a lot of them over here The first ones came that way After that, there was a long correspondence The shipping companies advertised in Odessa all the time; they found customers When things started getting a little rougher, they began to see what was happening in terms of their rights being taken away So starting from the late 19th century on through, you had the people coming over here and exploring what was available And because everything south from Texas on north

was gradually taken over, what was left was North and South Dakota, and then on up into Canada So you had Strasburg, was one of the first areas, they had scouts, if you will, came over They went back and said, “There’s land available, whoever’s willing to, come on over.” So in my family, Lawrence Welk’s father, Ludwig came over first in, I believe 1891 And then my grandfather came later, and they lived together actually, west of Strasburg, because they both were blacksmiths They were in competition for business So my grandfather moved east of Strasburg about 10 miles and set up shop there But my dad and my oldest uncles, they did the farming (narrator) A new landscape in the Americas offered new opportunities Old skills of farming and tilling the soil adapted to a new environment They had farmed in Russia, they would farm in America For some, it presented a sensual, pleasant experience Oh, I love farming very much and I observe nature I watch the crops grow when I drive over from Velva to Karlsruhe Every day I would try to check how much the crops grew, when they were sprouting, when they were starting to turn, getting kernels and so forth I observe nature very closely For instance, when I smell, cutting hay or when I smell the threshing, it’s a very beautiful sensation Especially when they’re cutting sweet clover because it has such a strong aroma I love that when it comes into the car when you drive by a place where they had cut sweet clover We’d follow, walk along behind the plow and smell the fresh earth Oh, that’s so vivid in my mind! In the springtime when they are cultivating, I loved the smell of the earth (Thomas Welk) You were pretty well self-sufficient on the farm So we would be having in terms of crops, diversified farming, you’d have your chickens, you’d have geese, you had the livestock, the hogs, cattle, you had some horses, not so much anymore But there wasn’t too much you needed from town Certain times we even took the wheat in to get milled for flour But things like salt, sugar, those obviously you had to buy in town, those kinds of staples Cream would be what was taken along to town Mom and Dad would go once a week, Saturday they’d go to Hague to go grocery shopping, they’d take the cream along Get the cash from the cream, and then they’d use that to buy those things that they couldn’t supply for themselves on the farm But then, to buy the machinery and so on, your grain, wheat primarily and flax was raised there a lot Oats and corn were mostly kept for the livestock for feeding; it was not taken to town for cash (Theresa Bachmeier) I grew up on a farm, all my life till I moved to town after my husband passed away I like farming Better life than town (narrator) While it may be that the culture of these Germans on the Kutschurgan created their landscape, a somewhat different landscape in the Americas required a shift in culture As one scholar points out, “The past is not static It changes as the present throws its shadow backwards.” The abrupt change from village life to the isolation of the American plains brought a profound anguish: not only had the settlers lost their beloved Kutschurgan valley forever, in losing a place, they had lost a sense of self, their emotional identity The concept of living in the village was much more important They were allowed to do that in the Ukraine, they would spiral out the land and also they had carried that over from Europe, spiraling on out Well, the Homestead Act forced them to live on a particular parcel of land So now they became more isolated, in many ways, it was probably a good deal of a lonely existence for these people who were so used to living more closely together in a village (narrator) Farm life frequently offered hardship and failure I know one time my brothers were out threshing and it was going to freeze, and the corn wasn’t cut Dad said, “I’m going to cut the corn and you girls are going to have to shuck it.” Well, you know, it’s kind of hard work My little sister, she was only 2 years younger then I, she helped put up about 2 or 3 shocks and she says, “Huh. I’m not a hired man.” And she walked home, and that was it So I shocked and shocked, and when Dad was through cutting he helped me finish it And a week or two later he said, “I’m going to Harvey,

I’d like for you to go along.” [little sister] “Can I go?” He said, “No, I don’t know you You weren’t here when I needed help so bad.” So I got to go to Harvey, and I got to pick out the dress I liked You know, it was the start of the Depression You saw so many old men sit there, one maybe had a shoe on one foot and an overshoe on the other foot and one was barefoot, people were just so poor that you wanted to cry On the farm you always had something to eat Spent every cent we had on a down payment on the farm The first crop was beautiful 15 minutes after he started with the binder, we got completely wiped out– hail The fields were like plowed The garden was gone, everything, but we had 5 cows, and about 50 chickens and they pulled us through (Barbara Schneider Risling) We had a flood We were just about drowned out It was a low place, and it was so cold that nothing melted All at once it got warm in April, and everything started melting at once, and the water just came running through our yard, and we were surrounded– no telephone, nothing It ran through the barn where the cattle stood– right through the barn, out the other end And here we sat with no telephone, and we were waiting the basement was already filled to the brim of this little house And then we said well, we have to get on tables, on chairs, whatever, when it gets worse, but it just filled the basement, then when it got, broke through, it worked itself again and started going out But we were, 3 days we were living in– surrounded by this water And with the little children, and no telephone (narrator) Ordinary, everyday life presents a storehouse of private and collective memories In recalling landscape, we share a system of ideologies and beliefs In a sense, landscape is memory and we share this memory with family and community It tells the story of the people and the rhythm of life over time, imparting a sense of continuity and a shared heritage, a cultural richness that promotes a sense of distinctiveness My name is Colleen Zeiler and I am the great granddaughter of Margaret Vetter who was the daughter of Valentine and Franciska Vetter who actually is the couple on this afghan And, of course, they came to North Dakota from Strassburg, Russia in about 1888 And this year we had our second annual Vetter reunion in which we celebrated honoring their existence and the legacy they have given us Plus we’ve honored the 100-year anniversary of this house up on the corner here, this wooden frame house As well at this reunion we also found out that there were 2 sod plots and the sod was actually blessed by some of the priests at our Mass and everybody was given a little sample of this dirt, this “sacred ground” we call it One of the things, the tradition when grandma came, we always walked over to the cemetery which was 1/4 mile away and we’d always tend the graves, my grandfather’s grave, my brother’s grave were always tended to Then grandma would always stop, and we’d say lots of prayers But grandma loved to tell stories, the story of her coming to America She came to America when she was 15 years old She came actually by herself, but she came with another family The family she came with, there was some disease in the family, there were some sick and so they ended up being hospitalized And so Grandma ended up staying at Ellis Island for a while Uncle Dan who was her brother had to send money out to Ellis Island for Grandma to get passage to South Dakota She came to South Dakota by herself at age 15 with a kind of tag around her neck that said I’m Ottilie Lacher and I’m supposed to come to Daniel Lacher at Ipswich South Dakota She spent those 3 years at Ipswich South Dakota with Uncle Dan and milked cows at age 15–you gotta remember that grandma was 4 foot 8– that was it; she weighed 112 pounds And yet she would milk 8, 10 cows without a blink of an eye And grandma was a hard, hard worker As a matter of fact, grandma stacked hay at our farm She would always come out in the summertime to stack hay and be with us in the summer and stacked hay at our farm until she was 75 years old And my dad had a Farmall tractor with a farmhand on it and one time, he had put a great big bucket of hay up on the stack and ended up pushing grandma off the stack And when grandma came off the stack, she threw the fork down

and said, “That’s it, I’m not making hay any more If you can’t leave me on the haystack and pushing me off, I’m not staying here But she still stayed on the farm and milked cows until she was 83 years old (narrator) History, like memory, includes what is forgotten Something in the past cannot be retrieved The memory of a landscape does not always bring pleasure It contains social fracture and pain as well (Theresa Bachmeier) That family on that picture– they were left behind And there was another sister that she was left behind, from my dad’s. And from my mother? I think there was some relatives, but I don’t remember them (woman) “O Kutschurgan, du stilles Tal!” Sei mir gegruesst viel tausendmal!” “Oh Kutschurgan, oh quiet valley! I call to you a thousand times! (narrator) Once again, “the power of fate.” War, revolution, famine, war again, destruction and dispossession, exile The landscape of the Kutschurgan as it had been… disappeared Each trauma drove a few more people away, to America, to Germany, to an unknown destiny The families that remained in Russia suffered the immeasurable consequences of the October Russian Revolution, collectivization, years of deliberate starvation, Stalin’s purges, then the tragedy of World War II In the end, their villages were emptied of German inhabitants and what was left of the Kutschurgan was no longer what it was, except as it was stored in memory When the revolution started, they rounded all up some rich people and took them all to Selz They took them out a little ways in the prairie, it was a valley, and it was 120 people One lady was with 2 from Strassburg and the others were from Franzfeld and Khutor, Fischer-Franzen They took them all and a priest was in-between those people and they shot them all The priest got up and gave the blessing yet I bet to this day there is not one grass growed in that spot It was just like a bloodbath in that valley That was in Selz; that happened in Selz That’s the way they got the people (narrator) Hardships under the Communist government continued through the decades in the ’30s when there was starvation There was wheat and there was vegetables and there was everything growing, but we couldn’t have it They came and took everything away So if you didn’t want to starve, you had to go to kolkhoz Kollektiv (collective farm) In the ’30s when the Communists took over that’s when they took all the people away First, they took the teachers away, then they took the people who was a little smart and helped other people Then they took the priests away My father died in May the 5th, and he was the last person who got buried in Strassburg Then they took Father Kopp away He was from Krasna And from that time on they start demolish the church They threw the bells down, then the steeple down, everything– the statue, the big organ– everything was hauled out and burned, and they made a show hall out of the church In our church, I think 600 people it holded, with the pews, but when the Germans came in so they helped us again, but it didn’t took long It only took 2 years, the Germans had to leave again They said, “You are out on your own, there’s nobody can help you.” (narrator) The events of the Diaspora were not lost on the Kutschurganers living in North America But the memory of these events became too painful to hold Gradually, “Da Haam in Russland,” “Back home in Russia,” was suppressed by the mind and the memory grew numb (Adam Giesinger) Our people did not talk very much about Russia They seemed to gradually forget it altogether When I was small, they used to speak about the “Da Haam in Russland.” They still called it home, “Da Haam in Russland.”

Whereas, say 10, 15 years later, they never used that expression anymore (narrator) So what did remain– foods, language, religion? When people come together, it’s always a time of eating and storytelling, of reminiscing and being reminded of times gone by Recollection is a mirror of cultural identity, distinctively revealed in patterns of daily life and speech, in food and in story (Adam Giesinger) We and all our neighbors all spoke German We lived in an area where there were a lot of Germans from Russia I heard no English in my home when I was a child Well, it was very evident when we started school because actually we could probably speak some words of English, but we normally and automatically spoke German Of course, in school we had to speak English If we spoke German we were punished, had to write or stay after school When we were out playing ball we would shout in German, but when we went into the school we’d have to speak English, of course Thank God that the teachers had patience with us and taught us English First of all, it was the German-Russian family that had its own customs– food and the cooking and the language– all of that Going to a one-room school, I didn’t know English, and teacher was pretty rough Anytime you spoke German, you had the garden hose, you got slapped your hand with it So I was a pretty quiet little boy the first year Really, truth be known, I didn’t really learn much English When I went off to High School Seminary in Ohio, I was really at a deficit That’s basically where I learned my English, was going off to the prep seminary It was a good school We learned real good; we had good teacher, good teachers And we wasn’t supposed to talk German, but we went outside and still talked German But then the teacher didn’t hear that But we managed, well, we had to learn that way, learn English, what we could, and talked German with it that’s the way we grew up Oh a lot of them at the 8th grade finished the 8th grade Oh yeah And then they went further, the ones that wanted to take more school, they could take more But there were very few German ones that went, at that time My mother had a very severe surgery and she ruptured, and so she needed the help So I pretend that I didn’t want to go to school and I stayed home to– the doctor said, “Your mother will live if she has complete peace of mind So what could I do? I quit school (Adam Giesinger) Many of the pioneers were illiterate, or nearly so So when you had somebody like my father, he had had a year of high school in Russia So when they set up a school, they had to elect a school board Well, they needed somebody who could read and write to be secretary Well, my dad was picked for that So he was secretary of the school board for quite a few years, until the younger generation came along, then it passed to other families I was the first one in our neighborhood that went on to high school– the first one When I was high school age, you had to go away, and many people couldn’t afford that I can observe in my hometown, if I go to the bar and if I sit down to talk with somebody, I really have to speak more directly I have to speak in more declarative sentences This is really tricky actually because I think people back home think very complexly and that could have something to do with Germanness You think about the German language and the way they build these words that are just conglomerations of words within words within words and that reflects a way of looking at the world And what the people back home manage to accomplish is, they think that way about the world but they communicate in very elegant, pared-down sentences structures When I come back to the writing table and think about my creative writing that I do, I always try to get my voice back to the voice that speaks to the people from back home

(narrator) Speaking to the people back home included not only the spoken language, but the language of music, the rhythm of the dance echoing the rhythm of seasons and work The fun part was, this building is still standing here in Balta And the dance hall was upstairs And when enough of us danced, the hall went like this Every time we went, my dad would say, “Well, when I hear it collapse, I’ll come and look for you.” [laughs] But it was fun We had a lot of house parties We’d have a party at our house Then the next week maybe the neighbors would have a party, and then the other neighbors Whoever would have the dance there would serve a nice lunch Sometimes we got to have it at the schoolhouse Somebody would play the violin or somebody the accordion or sometimes it was just the record player Weddings were a tradition in the German families If you turned 14, you got to start going to wedding dances, from when I was 14 until I was 20 years old there was a wedding dance every Friday night So you got to go to the wedding dance My dad would give us 50 cents and say “Don’t spend it all in one place.” [laughs] And we would go to the wedding dances and my mother said, “Well, if you’re going to go to wedding dances, you have to learn how to dance There’s no sense going to a wedding dance if you don’t know how to dance.” So my mother taught us how to dance at a young age, at 14, 15 years of age, so when we’d go to the dance, we could actually dance with the girls It was always free, and they passed the hat around 11:00 and you would throw in a quarter, 20 cents, whatever, and they always seemed to collect for the band, and it was always a lot of fun Wedding dances always traditionally had the waltzes, the 2-steps and polkas and occasionally there was a schottische In those days people knew how to dance and they always danced in a circle We’d make all the wedding dances and we’d always say, “If you’re going to go to meet girls, you have to go to Balta or go to Berwick, they always had lots of girls; if you wanted to get into a fight, you could always go to Karlsruhe to the dance because there was always a fight at every Karlsruhe dance, I don’t know why but there always was And Orrin was just always a fun party always (narrator) In days before television, families needed to invent diversion I remember when my brother bought the first radio, little radio about so high We all sat up all night listening to the songs We were so happy! I played the organ and I taught my children on my knee to sing In the evenings there was no radio, no nothing In the evenings after supper they were on my knee in a big rocking chair, one had the lap, the other two were sitting on the side, and I sang to them; I sang to them ¦ I was born and raised in Saskatchewan ¦ ¦ Where the golden fields of grain are grown. ¦ ¦ Where a herd of white-faced cattle ¦ ¦ Roam the pasture of my parents’ farm. ¦ ¦ I’ll always be a farmer’s son ¦ ¦ Although I’m many miles from home. ¦ ¦ I’ll never forget that, happy days. ¦ ¦ I lived with my parents on our farm. ¦ When I was 6 years old, my father had all those records from Germany The German records that we had, that gramophone with that big horn on there, and he had all those German songs with the yodeling When I was 7 years old, I sang those songs on that gramophone, and I yodeled like they did When we got people to come to visit, they asked little Barb to come in, and I had to sing for them And they gave me money– 10 cents, 25 cents You just desperately looked for visitors, you know, you’d be out on the prairie, you’d see the dust from a car You know, no matter how many gophers I still had to hunt, or how many fish I wanted to catch, you ran on home, hoping those visitors would come to the house Because not only would they come at mealtime when they’d sit down have a meal with you, but they also enriched your life You just not only gave to them, they gave to you Everybody’s friendly; you know each other and you help each other The neighbor kids figured we were making ice cream, they manage to come at noontime I know one time one of the boys came up, they lived about a mile, and my mother said, “Oh, you hit a pretty good day– we got spring chicken today and ice cream!” She said, “Yeah, well, we always have ice cream I’ll stay for dinner.” Well, then his brother came to tell him to go home Well, he stayed– then the father came!

Then my mother just winked to Dad, and she said, “Oh, let the boys have a little time off They enjoyed this meal Come sit down and eat with them.” So he did! [laughs] (narrator) The aroma of bread just pulled from the oven, the smell of soil freshly tilled in the field, the sound of a language spoken by grandparents, aunts and uncles through centuries, echoing in German folk songs now all but forgotten, the taste of foods with strange sounding names enjoyed around countless kitchen tables–these sensory pleasures recall a home in Russian river valleys and on the American prairie The foods in particular evoke memories of home and family (Mary Ebach) It brings back visual memories because I can see her making them She didn’t use a recipe She used her hand, the palm of her hand, or a green water glass or a blue soup bowl That’s how she measured (narrator) For Mary and Clara Ebach of Rugby, North Dakota, memory resides in the kitchen, baking Blotchenda, as their mother did– a Black Sea specialty (Mary Ebach) I think it was 6 or 7 years old when her Dad died, and her mother remarried I asked her one time, why she left Russia, were they mean to her? She said no, they heard that there was free land available in America and they wanted to come So they got on a ship, and she told us all about her voyage over and how they got seasick I asked her one time if she would ever go back to Russia and she said, no, she’d never go back She liked it here, she became an American, she learned how to read English, how to speak English and she was very good at it This is a recipe book that we compiled, using the recipes, the information that she provided Like I said here in the front, that she used like a green glass full of that or a blue cup that she used or a green soup bowl And if she said a soup bowl, she meant that green soup bowl she wanted a glass, then you used a green glass And I said you know, if you don’t have that blue soup bowl or the green glass, you’re in trouble because she had the right ingredients, the right touch! Sometimes there are words in German that you don’t know how to translate into English Like we say Kaesknaepf, ok, we know what it is Explain it to somebody else, you got to translate it into English, cheese buttons–it’s not quite the same It loses something in translation So when we say we’re going to make Blotchenda, that’s what we say I don’t know how you would say that in English So all these recipes are in here, like Gruene Borscht, I suppose you could just say it’s a meatless vegetable soup But it’s more than that It’s more than just a vegetable soup because it has all these special ingredients in there that only a German would have in there What we do when we make the Blotchenda is to take a small-size pumpkin, for the amount of Blotchenda we make We cut it in half, after they are cut in half, I will take out the seeds, scrape them out This is the way we learned how to make it, and rather than try something new and maybe not turn out as good as the way our mother made it, we just continue with the actual way that she made it I don’t know, sometimes if you modernize too much And it is a little more work Some people use canned pumpkin to make these, but like I said, we’re a firm believer in continuing with the way that was good enough for our mother We scrape until we get about 8 cups in there To this I’m adding the pepper and the salt and onion, and now 2/3rds cup of sugar Now some people when they make this, they don’t use the salt or the onion on it, they add cinnamon And that’s just another way that people learned how to make it, I guess This is the way we learned how to make it in our house, so this is the way we’re going to make it While Clara is making the dough, these ingredients will blend I’m going to make the dough for the Blotchenda I have 4 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt

And then about 1/2 cup of lard This I do by guess and by gosh I think I have to get in there with my hands to do that I put water in there, I’m gonna add a little bit of milk and a little bit of cream Because with the milk and cream it makes the dough a little more moist It is a lot of work We don’t do it that often It seems like all those German dishes are a lot of work Whew! Now I gotta let this rest for a while I hope to get a dozen Blotchendas out of that (Mary Ebach) I feel with these recipes that it is a continuation of our heritage (Clara Ebach) I’m rolling out the dough for the Blotchenda, little ones We used to make big ones, but Mary decided the little ones are better Now we’re going to start the second process of making the Blotchenda, and that is to fill them And stir it up a little bit because it has blended pretty good; they are nice and soft Pinch ’em together They’re going to turn out a little small, but they’ll be good enough Have them set at 375 and leave ’em in for 20 to 30 minutes depending on how fat I made ’em Oh, boy that’s a juicy one! Then, of course, with the Blotchenda we we ate ’em–you can eat ’em just by themselves, but our mother always had a soup to go with it A potato soup, bean soup, She had a solution for all of our hunger It’s surprising how long that dough will stay, hold your appetite; you don’t get hungry fast after you’ve eaten something made with dough (Joseph Senger) They were able to create things out of nothing with just flour and water and we thought it was really, really delicious Of course, we baked bread, had the kitchen table full of loaves of bread We baked bread once or twice a week I smell that, and immediately I think of home and the kitchen and the bread. Oh yes, yes (narrator) Preparing food requires hours of repeated tasks: kneading dough, shelling peas, grinding sausage Fieldwork requires repeated labor as well Through the agricultural repetition of plowing back and forth, repeatedly seeding and threshing, and through the flow of seasons and rivers, people of the Kutschurgan felt their connection to a chain of being that stretched back beyond known ancestors (Barbara Schneider Risling) Well, I didn’t like to go out in the field, because it was hot, and I had to harness my horses, but I had to do it because the boys were not old enough to do it Joel was my brother next to me, but he was not old enough We hauled sheaves to the threshing machine till we got enough help, then we were released We picked all the weeds by hand There was no such a thing as spray From the beginning there were no weeds, all at once the weeds started coming, see, the land was so new, there was no weeds there Up and down, the 5 of us We took up one strip up, put them all in the piles, down the other one, up and down the field we picked them all by hand I worked hard all my life And my sister’s 91, and she was with me, we all worked together It wasn’t that I worked hard alone, they all worked hard The whole family worked hard (narrator) The church towered over the Kutschurgan valley of remembrance, its architecture dominating both ideology and landscape Parishioners were Catholic, devout, and willing to support the construction of huge edifices whose monumental ruins mark the villages yet today and register a piety that transcends national boundaries In America, the construct was just as powerful, but the buildings more modest (Joseph Senger) I always compare it to the churches in Russia where they had these great big, beautiful churches and they were all turned into granaries, and garages and machine shops because they were the strongest buildings in every town

So the buildings are still there; they are 100 years old I shock people when I tell them that the churches at Orrin, Karlsruhe, Balta, will one day be empty, because people are just moving away from the farm And I dread to think of 25 years from now I think this church here where we are won’t be in operation in 25 years So I’m very sad I’m too pessimistic about the fact that we’re losing so much population in the rural areas When I think of the activity and how our life centered around the church when we grew up–it simply is not that way anymore We don’t have the people; we don’t have the young people, so there simply isn’t that much activity I remember when I was very little we went to the country church Then I remember when this church was built My dad and the boys were down working, and it wasn’t enough help, so my dad hired a hired man to help also And my mother took all the kettles down Sometimes we didn’t know if we could cook a good meal at home or not because everything was down here! No matter what oppressive circumstances they had to encounter, whether it would be in Alsace, or Napoleon, whether it was in Russia or the adverse conditions they had to confront just living in North Dakota, church was important That was the rallying point Church became the point of socializing Well in the villages, you know, a lot of that socializing was built around the religious festivals So you had particular customs surrounding Christmas celebrations You had customs surrounding Easter that weren’t just connected with the church service, you know, were much more broadly expanded And going on down the line, weddings would be celebrated, not just one day, but three days You went on and on Names Days, Namestag, oh gosh, that was important The church festival, the Karichweihfest I do remember the one for New Year’s because I remember what they used to call Neujahrschiesse, which means they were New Year’s celebrators and they would come at like 3:00 in the morning The first thing they would do, they would take a loaded shotgun and they would pull ‘er off right next to the master bedroom window to wake up the owners of the home Then they’d come in, and they’d want to have a little drink or something The first thing they did when they come in, they’d have to give the greeting to come in the house– And it was always, it went, “Glueckliches Neujahr G’sundheit, langes Leben Alles was is’ is’ ‘n Haus voll Kinder e’ Stall voll Rinder e’ Keller voll Wein un’ da kumet Leut’ rein,” which is really “Happy New Year to you.” All there is, is a house full of children, a barn full of cattle, a cellar full of wine, and a great time to come in and have company” is what it was all about– wishing everyone the best for the new year, and that you’ve got all these, and you’re willing to share with everybody It was more of a chant than a song, The New Year’s greeting was more of a chant than a song, it was not really–it depends how much they had to drink, I suppose! [laughs] And how many houses they had been to before they got to ours One year they blew the chimney off our house! [laughs] (narrator) Although the people of the Kutschurgan didn’t have much leisure time, their talent for combining belief, skill, art, and landscape found expression in their production of funerary iron crosses Wherever Kutschurganers lived and died, there one finds these landscape sentinels peering eternally into the soul of the people both dead and alive Their black outlines relieve the endless prairie; their negative space embraces inner horizons The iron crosses are very, very, special to me and I feel they have a much more religious significance than the granite monuments It seems like it’s closer to the heart of religion; that the people who made them had a much more personal influence When people became more prosperous, they felt it was a sign of prosperity if they could buy either an iron cross that was molded or a granite cross So in later years it was considered to be only the very poor people would have an iron cross because they couldn’t afford a better one, and that, of course, was very unfortunate It would have really been good if they had continued with the iron crosses because they were made by people of the area, the blacksmith of the area I would like to have an iron cross made for myself

(narrator) What are the strengths of a German-Russian heritage? (Thomas Welk) I think resiliency They’ve had to go through so much adversity that I think there’s very little that some of these people would not be willing to tackle and take on I think the strong convictions that come out of a long, big tradition, would be probably another one that served these people well Sometimes they may not even realize it, but I think those convictions will carry them through a lot Well, they have a reputation for being stubborn. [laughs] I think it probably isn’t stubborn so much as determined and I would say hard working They work very, very hard I think even the ones who go to college, they tend to work very hard It is something that they grew up with And like for me, all of the German-Russians were farmers, and so I associate hard work with the Germans from Russia I think the Germans from Russia are very religious people and very pious people Possibly some of it was because they had so many hardships We had two generations of real suffering and one generation of things going really well I think somehow or other that affected them I would say that in Russia they were isolated in the sense that they had their own villages and so there too, their lives centered around their church I think they have a deep affinity to the church and to God I mentioned earlier because of hardship, but I don’t want to say simply because times were hard that they were religious I think they were religious when times were good too I feel very strongly that we are losing a very special part of our heritage by being, sort of melting into the general American scene I wish that we could keep alive more of our German-Russian heritage (narrator) The Kutschurgan exists today at the confluence of place and memory How long it will persist depends on the power of memory, for the place of the past has disappeared It is saved in the hearts and minds of descendants whose ancestors once dwelled there It also lives on in traditions found in the plains states and provinces of North and South Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan One of the things I’m trying to do is to resist two things that I think are dangerous for preservation of culture: one is nostalgia, and one is romanticism I think actually our people were not a nostalgic people I think they were people who knew that in order to survive, you had to keep looking forward And that the generations who came afterwards, we’ve been maybe a little bit too nostalgic because we were trying to correct that forward-looking impulse in our ancestors Nostalgia brings with it rosy glasses I think we’re at beginning of this huge, new, rich wave of German-Russian culture, history, literature, that is going to put German-Russian culture in its proper place in American culture because we’ll have the tools in place, and I think slowly we’ll be less hampered by this romantic instinct What future historians and future writers will have to do is, have to unpack all of those neatenings that have occurred and all those conflations for simplification The worst thing that could happen is if the story were completely forgotten and completely erased (narrator) The people of the Kutschurgan were united by their faith and by their agricultural foundation It has been said that people who settle virgin land, as did the people of the Kutschurgan at least twice in their common history, feel themselves to be performing an act of creation Though scattered now as the seeds and hulls of wheat they tended for centuries, people of the Kutschurgan return almost as ritual to their prairie roots, hungry for the resonance of their sacrifices and successes, a renewal of a memory not yet lost, and that landscape not yet urban (woman) “O Kutschurgan, du stilles Tal! Sei mir gegruesst viel tausendmal!” “Oh Kutschurgan, oh quiet valley! I call to you a thousand times!”

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