Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anniversaries are so worth celebrating....

Anniversaries. Whatever your opinion of the event, anniversaries are life's opportunity to pause, ponder and revel in the essence of our life.

I experienced such an opportunity with seventy Germans from Russia yesterday. The Arizona Sun Chapter celebrated its 30 year anniversary at the Black Forest Mill Inn in Phoenix, Arizona. Sauerbraten, Jaeger schnitzel and black forest torte abundantly dressed our tables as did the new publication Thirty Years in the Desert, a compilation of our member's family stories.

The celebration was sparked with comraderie and joy in our common heritage. The Arizona Sun Chapter's second President, Lewis R. Marquardt, Ph.D., and his wife, Dona Reeves-Marquardt graced us with their wit and wisdom.
Lew was born and raised in North Dakota, the eldest son of a German-Russian father and an Irish mother; his paternal grandparents migrated to the Dakota Territories in 1888. Lew grew up among Black Sea Germans and spent his early years teaching instrumental music in South Dakota, and Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities at Arizona State University at Tempe. After the death of his first wife in 1984, he married Dona. Lew and Dona have traveled extensively in Germany, France and Europe seeking ancestral villages, art museums and the phenomenon of foreign culture. Lewis a Charter member and a Life member of AHSGR, as well as a Life Member of GRHS.
Dona Reeves-Marquardt, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, is Professor Emerita at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, where she taught German language and literature many years. Primarily of Volga-German ancestry, she has published articles on the language, history and culture of Germans from Russia. Dona has translated major works in that area, including Peter Sinner’s Germans in the Land of the Volga and Gottlieb Beratz’ The German Colonies on the Lower Volga with LaVern Ripley and Leona Pfeifer. Her grandparents immigrated in 1876 from Volga villages to Russell county, KS. She was a Fulbright scholar at Johannes Gutenberg Universit├Ąt in Mainz, Germany and has studied and traveled extensively in Germany, to her ancestral villages.

Lew reminisced about the early beginnings of the Arizona Sun Chapter. While only a few founding members like Joe Schwan are with us, we honored their memory and their service to the chapter. Then, he and Dona compared the differences between Black Seas Germans and Volga Germans. To the uninitiated, it may seem odd to have subsets exist within the unique Germans from Russia, however Lew and Dona compared, contrasted and demonstrated clearly that despite the differences, there are many more similarities.

Bonding, learning and sharing. Lew and Dona inspired the next generation at our anniversary event. And, isn't that what tracking our family history is all about?


madner3 said...

What a wonderful experience you had this weekend. It is nice that everyone gathered together to celebrate not only common heritage but to also remember one's own family through the stories shared in the book.
You put a lot of effort into editing the book and should be well congratulated for it. But it is also very special that so many people shared their memories and stories. I was looking at Google earth earlier today and I marveled at the distance that your ancestors traveled to reach a new home in the Volga. Then to come to America. The storied we know must only be a small part of what could actually be told.

Anna said...

You are right. Although we try to put ourselves in their shoes, we never truly experience the hunger in the pit of their stomach, the decision-making dilemma they faced on whether to stay in Russia or go, not knowing if they would ever see each other again. I always think of "Fiddler on the Roof" when the second daughter leaves for Siberia and she says to her father, "God knows when we will see each other again," and he replies,"Let's leave it in His hands."