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Lodi’s Marlene Strand traced roots to grandparents’ Ukranian village

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Posted: Monday, March 19, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:34 am, Mon Mar 19, 2012.

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 rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • Jacquie Covelle Childers posted at 6:35 pm on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    Jacquieblue Posts: 1

    Hi, I'm hoping that Marlene will see this post as I have no other way to contact her.
    Marlene, My mother Ruth Schell Covelle passed away Jan. 28th 2010, and my daughter was recently on Ancestry.com and found a message that you (I'm guessing that you are the same Marlene Strand) had left on the condolence page of her obituary. You were trying to locate relatives of your grandmothers sister Emilie Gottschalk Schell. My grandfather was Fredrick Schell, who immigrated to North Dakota from the Russia/Germany area around the same time? I'm guessing that your Aunt was probably married to one of his brothers? I don't have a lot of information but if you'd like to contact me, you can leave a message on my facebook page and I'll get back to you.

  • Christina Welch posted at 10:06 am on Mon, Mar 19, 2012.

    Lodi 1970 Posts: 85

    Actually, it is not surprising to me that Mrs. Strand's grandparents had not learned English. They immigrated at a time when EL instruction was not commonplace as it is today, and they immigrated as adults, so they would not have been able to be taught English in school. Back then, they didn't have the resources and programs that are available to help immigrants learn English like we do today. Today we not only have EL programs in schools for immigrant children, but we also offer various programs for their parents as well.

    The comparison seems like apples and oranges to me, and seems like a sad attempt to turn a lovely personal-interest story into yet another political statement.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 8:04 am on Mon, Mar 19, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4305

    How wonderful that Mrs. Strand was able to travel to her grandparents' village in the Ukraine. Since the story did not give any further details, I wonder if she and her husband were able to trace her mother's family roots back any further than just her grandparents. Were they able to do any research on great-grandparents, great-great, etc.?

    And what a sad ending to this story to find that a language barrier prevented Mrs. Strand from communicating with her grandparents. What about her mother? I am presuming that Mrs. Strand's mother must have spoken German as her first language - why could she not have been a bridge between her parents and her children and/or been able to record some oral history?

    Interesting though that after 63 years in the United States, Mrs. Strand's grandparents had not learned English. Kind of puts a monkey wrench in the claim that all other immigrants learned English immediately upon arriving here, but Spanish speakers are somehow deficient or unable or unwilling to achieve that goal.



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