Tag Archives: Eunice Boeve

A Brief History of the Volga Germans

eunice-photoBack around 2012, when I first joined ‘Women Writing the West’, I somehow managed to start a correspondence with a fellow author in Kansas—Eunice Boeve. One might think that a romance author sitting in NYC and a predominantly YA and western author living out in KS had nothing in common, but Eunice and I have found a lot of common ground and continue our correspondence to this day.

Eunice was born and raised in Northwest Montana and Idaho, the middle child of seven born to a storytelling father and a book loving mother. She writes historical fiction novels for adults and young people, and for the past seven years has written a chapter story for a program called Newspapers in Education, from which her latest book, A Home in America, has evolved. Her books have received a number of awards, including a Kansas Notable book award. She lives in a small Kansas town with her husband and an aging red dachshund.

You can find all her books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and various other locations. Her website is: http://www.euniceboeve.net

Eunice has very kindly agreed to give away two copies of her book, A Home in America, to two people leaving a comment on this blog. And I’m pleased to announce the winners are Anne Schroeder and Colleen Donnelly.  Our thanks to everyone who left a comment!


Thank you, Andrea, for hosting me on your blog this month.

The history of the Volga Germans gives testimony to what the human spirit can endure, for they came to Russia and against incredible odds built a life from

Volga Germans

Volga Germans

literally nothing, but the ground under their feet. In 1763, Germany was in shambles, ravaged by seemingly unending wars and the demands of the ruling class, leaving the common citizen totally destitute. Then Catherine the Great of Russia offered land along the Volga River, free and clear with housing and horses and plows, and with no hope of a better life, they jumped at the Russian ruler’s seemingly spectacular offer.

But, when the first group arrived, there were no houses, no horses, and no plows. There was land, lots of land. But the nomadic tribes who had lived there for centuries considered it theirs. They swooped down on horseback, killing the men and capturing the women and children. With no place to go, no means to return to Germany and nothing there anyway, they stayed, and by sheer force of will, muscle, and faith, carved out a life on the Russian plains. That first winter, they dug caves for shelter with wagon boards for doors. These strong-willed people declined to interact with Russia in any way. They did not claim citizenship nor intermarry, but clung to their German language, customs, and religion as fiercely as they tamed the hostile land.

At first, they were promised freedom from the military, then Russia began to impose mandatory military service on males from sixteen to forty-five. With no feelings of loyalty to Russia, they felt no obligation to fight for the country, and many began to suspect that other demands would follow. With the idea of leaving Russia, they sent scouts to North and South America and these men brought back good reports of both countries, but favoring North America. Those who wished to immigrate and could manage the fares, left all they knew behind, sometimes even family members, and departed for the Americas.

Volga German Pioneer Memorial, Victoria, KS

Volga German Pioneer Memorial, Victoria, KS

Of those who did immigrate to America, many came to Kansas. Others settled in other states, including North Dakota, and Nebraska. For the most part, they kept together creating their own small towns. Those small towns around Hays, Kansas were given the names of the villages they left behind in Russia, like Herzog, Liebenthal. Pfeifer, Schoenchen, and Munjor, and, with the exception of Herzog, are still in existence today. Herzog is now Victoria. Settled by the English when the English left, the two towns became one. The fact that America is made up of a very diverse population, and English is the main language, made it almost impossible to exist in isolation as the entire Volga River Germans did for some one hundred plus years in Russia. So even the Volga German so steadfast in remaining German, began to mix with others, as have many other ethnic groups who came to this land we call America.


A Home in America, Book cover by Julie Peterson-Shea, published by Rowe Publishing  and available at http://rowepub.com/a-home-in-america/ and http://www.amazon.com/Home-America-Volga-German-Story/dp/1939054818/

   home-in-america-book-cover-image  A Home in America begins in the year of 1892, with Eva and her family living in the Volga River area of Russia settled by their forefathers from Germany in the mid 1760s. They have always considered themselves to be German and have kept their language and traditions, as promised them, along with being exempt from military service, when they settled this part of Russia. But 130 years later, Russia is disregarding those earlier promises and many, including Eva’s family believe they would be better off in America. Going to America, though, means leaving Great Grandmother behind. Great Grandmother, now old and blind, has been the only mother Eva has ever known, her own mother dying the day she was born. Father has remarried, but although she likes her stepmother very much, it is Great Grandmother whom she still considers her mother and she cannot bear even the thought of leaving this woman she has loved like a mother all her life.

This story began as a Newspaper in Education story and was featured in five Kansas newspapers for 8 weeks beginning Jan. 5, 2016, and told of their journey to America. The rest of the story chronicles their next year when they settle on a farm near Herzog (Victoria), Kansas.


 Excerpt

“After much thought and prayer,” Father says, “Great-Grandmother, Leah, and myself have decided it would be best for our family to leave Russia.” He pauses, then adds, “So next spring we will leave for America.”

I am so surprised, so shocked I think I could be knocked off this bench with a feather. Beside me, Great Grandmother bends her head in prayer and her fingers begin traveling the beads of her rosary, her lips moving in silent supplication. Fear clutches my heart as I realize how old, how feeble she has become. Will we leave her here, like Mia’s family will leave her grandmother?

I raise my eyes from Great Grandmother’s bent head and the rosary in her hands, to see if Father has noticed my fear and will reassure me with a smile, but he is busy answering Peter and Michael’s excited questions. Then I’m remembering this morning at the cow shed and how Leah had remained silent when I said I was glad we weren’t going to America and with a small jolt of anger, I turn to her.

Her brown eyes meet mine and they seem to ask for forgiveness, but I feel no forgiveness. She could have at least warned me! I close my face into a tight mask and blink back my tears and hold on to my angry thoughts so they do not become words. I know that Great-Grandmother cannot make such a long trip and I also know I cannot leave her. Then Great-Grandmother’s hand finds mine and my anger at Leah dissolves and I realize those words were not hers to tell, but Father’s.

A coldness settles over me as I listen to Father tell of the rumors growing stronger every day; rumors of Russia headed for war with Japan. And if they go to war, men and boys sixteen to forty-five will be called to fight for the Russian army. Peter will turn sixteen next summer, Father, who is forty, will have to go immediately. Michael at thirteen, nearly fourteen, is safe, but for how long? Wars can last for years.

Father says it was those same rumors of war that sent Uncle Johann and his family, to America and that we would have gone with them, but for Great-Grandmother. At his words, my anger, cooled, again rises up in me. Does Father think she can go with us now, even though she is now blind, and five years older?

 

 

 

 

 

ROADTRIP 2015 AWARDS!!!!

IMG_0423The judges have decided—the votes are in! Having traveled more than 8,000 miles and scoured the country for the very best, here are the 2015 DOWNING ROADTRIP AWARDS…in order of encounter. Continue reading

DISPLACED PERSONS

Several years ago I started a correspondence with a fellow member of Women Writing the West, Eunice Boeve. Eunie lives in Phillipsburg, KS, while I, of course, live in NYC, so you might think a more disparate twosome could hardly exist. But whether it was our writing, or just the feeling of kindred souls, we have regularly corresponded now for some time, including family news, health issues, and even politics among our discussions of writing successes and woes, and I have learned an amazing amount of information from Eunie, particularly about Kansas history. So it was Eunie who brought me to Kansas, who imbued in me the need to see KS for myself.

The first item on the day’s itinerary was the Orphan Train Museum in Concordia. The idea of moving thousands of street children and orphans to homes out west is startling to modern thinking, yet that is exactly what was done. Their various stories are preserved in this old station house, and have now been retold in numerous novels. It is a startling facet of American history.

Driving through the Kansas countryside to our appointed meeting with Eunie at Nicodemus, it was Cristal and I who were displaced. The flat plains of Kansas is disconcerting to New York gals—devoid of buildings, few people, little traffic, and stretching into the distance with an endless horizon that wraps around you 360 degrees. But, at last we reached Nicodemus and Eunie, waiting there for us. She introduced us, in turn, to Angela Bates, descendent of one of the first African American pioneers who settled this township of former slaves from Kentucky. Conversation was stimulating over lunch, though it was heart-breaking to see so many buildings of this settlement in a sad state. Today there are only 13 persons still living in Nicodemus.

However, the day proved one of our best yet. Eunie, I know you’ll be reading this: we appreciate all you did, and are grateful for such generosity. We remain ever thankful as we journey on.

Angela Bates, Eunice Boeve, me and Cristal at Ernestine's BBQ, Nicodemus

Angela Bates, Eunice Boeve, me and Cristal at Ernestine’s BBQ, Nicodemus

THE ORPHAN TRAIN by Eunice Boeve

1Author Eunice Boeve writes award-winning historical fiction for both adults and children.  In her home state of Kansas, she has also had two serials of historical fiction for children featured in syndicated newspapers for a program called Newspapers in Education.  The program, which targets schools, also provides guides for classroom use.

Eunice’s first story for the NIE in 2011 was a time travel story which she eventually lengthened and published as a book Continue reading

MEMORIES OF A WESTERN CHRISTMAS

PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR OUR BIG CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY!

Christmas to me has always meant a beach.  Yes, you read that correctly:  a beach.  My grandmother was one of 11 children and by the time I was of school age, the surviving siblings had all moved to Florida to escape New York winters. This meant that, in order to be together for the holiday season, our immediate family was piled into a car for the three day drive from NY to Florida—the beach. Continue reading

An Interview with Eunice Boeve

Eunice Boeve

Eunice Boeve, a Kansas resident, grew up in Montana and Idaho, influenced by a story-telling cowboy father and a reading, poetry-loving mother.   Her first submission for publication—and  subsequent rejection—was  a poem her sixth grade teacher encouraged her to send to the Weekly Reader. Besides a few short children’s stories and as many articles, she is the author of four middle grade historical novels, an adult historical fiction/western novel, Ride a Shadowed Trail, and its sequel, Crossed Trails, soon to be released by Whiskey Creek Press. Before retiring, she worked as a speech para in a school for special needs children and as a bookkeeper/secretary in her family-owned funeral home.  Eunie and I are both members of the organization Women Writing the West and we’ve had a lively correspondence for well over a year now.  I’m thrilled to have her with me today. Continue reading