Rural villages in Saskatchewan - like Leader - are filled with the graves of Germans from Russia - those who escaped before Stalin destroyed the kulak families.
I did my first writing workshop at the German Russian Cultural Festival. Talking about my journey towards a publishing contract with people who shared my interest in German Russians was empowering. But just to sit at the presentation table with four very talented, experienced authors who shared my passion was the real high for me.
My fellow authors included: Ron Vossler author of We'll Meet Again in Heaven (in my own collection) and many other books about the North Dakota German Russians. He'd just returned from Odessa where he'd been researching for yet another book. He was also the Saturday night speaker and made us all chuckle about our German Russian roots. Sharon Chmielarz (her most recent release is a poetry book, The Rhubarb King, and I'm savouring it slowly) is a most eloquent and deep thinking author who lives in Minnesota. Jacqueline Baker (author of The Horseman's Graves) is young and vibrant and her writing reflects this. I can't wait to read her book. And local historian Bill Wardill author of Sand Castles, is a columnist, cowboy poet and all round understated funny guy.
I listened to a woman called Anna Fischer who shared her story of the Stalin years - of the hunger and of the war. She's a few years younger than my mom. Her story was heartwrenching.
My most intense connection was with a man called Ned Schneider. He left Volhynia (the same area my mom is from) in 1928 as a seven year old boy. I made this man cry when I brought out a piece of red granite from the base of my grandfather's windmill. He remembered helping his father build their windmill with the red granite that was common in the area. My mom and him would have attended the same Neudorf German Baptist church and possibly have hung out at the same farmer's market in Pulin - one of the bigger business centers of the area. His father - like my grandfather - was a windmill owning kulak. His father - unlike my grandfather - immigrated to North America in time to escape the collectivization process.
Here's a photo of Pulin showing a statue from the communist era.
Lots of red granite!
Just to show that I wasn't only all doom and gloom - my biggest compliment came when a woman told me she loved my sense of Prussian humour. Huh? Me, funny? I love the idea that I might actually be funny. :)
In my next post - which will be on Canada Day - meaning I get a day off work - (hurrah!) I'm going to share my recipe for writing about your roots (which I created as a handout for this geneology group) and a I'll also post a recipe for real food.