Marlene Strand was a woman on a mission. She wanted to find the house in which her maternal grandparents lived in the late 1800s, in a small village in what is now the Ukraine.
She found it in 2008 in what was once a German village filled with Lutherans. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, small German villages dotted the map in what was the nation of Bessarabia. Each village had only one church, either Catholic or Lutheran. Since Strand's ancestors were Lutherans, they lived in the German Lutheran village of Kloestitz.
Marlene Strand and her husband, Ted, told the story of her search for her roots during Sunday's meeting in Lodi of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.
Marlene Strand's maternal grandparents left Kloestitz in 1897 for a better life in America. The Flath family lived in South Dakota for two years and then in Washington state, where they lived until they came to Lodi in 1910. The Flaths moved to Orland in 1922 because they could get more farmland there, Marlene Strand said, but her grandparents returned to Lodi in 1935. Her grandfather died in 1960, and her mother the following year. Both were in their 90s.
The Strands, who live in Wilton but are members of the Lodi chapter, took two trips to eastern Europe to see her roots from the Flath side of the family. Sunday's slide show focused on their second trip in 2008.
They began their trip in Budapest and took a ship along the Danube River, primarily because that was the major river used for transportation 100 years ago, Marlene Strand said. They went through the Black Sea canal and took a bus to Bucharest. Then they traveled with two interpreters along a gravel road to Kloestitz. The couple wanted to see where Marlene Strand's grandparents were raised.
They met several hospitable families who put them up for the night and made them some delicious, filling meals without asking for money (though they contributed some money anyway).
One of the families took the Strands to the village school, where the principal and several teachers helped figure out where Marlene's grandparents lived. They found it, but they also discovered that the local church's roof fell when her grandparents attended a wedding there.
"It was still a thrill to see something my grandparents had lived in," Marlene Strand said.
Her desire to visit her grandparents' German village came after going through her mother's belongings after she died in 1997. Marlene Strand said she spotted two small hand-decorated boxes she recognized as her grandmother's. The boxes contained letters with return addresses from Washington state, Romania and the eastern European villages of Kloestitz, Bartenbach and Lautenbach, she said in a written history.
Marlene Strand's mother, Mathilda Flath, was born in Lodi.
Marlene saw her grandparents when they were elderly, but they didn't speak English and Marlene didn't speak German. So Marlene Strand missed out on what she believes would have been good family history stories. She finally got her grandmother's letters translated by someone in South Dakota.
Last year the couple traced Ted Strand's roots in Norway, but Marlene is anxious to return to the Ukraine.
"We'd recommend this trip to anybody," she said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.