New building in Prairie Village Museum honors German-Russian settlers of North Dakota

Local News

Germans from Russia are the largest ethnic immigrant group in North Dakota.

On Wednesday, there was a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the grand opening of the new Germans from Russia Heritage Center located in the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby.

The brand new Germans from Russia building highlights the lifestyles and traditions of the Germans who immigrated from Russia to North Dakota for a better life.

Exhibits include pictures, artifacts and displays of what some of the homesteads looked like.

The old center was torn down in the early 2000s.

In the summer of 2017, a group of German-Russian descendants created the Heart of America Germans from Russia organization and made it their mission to rebuild.

Monica Houim is the group president.

She said she’s excited about her role in building a new center because her grandparents were part of the original movement in the 70s.

“They got things going back then for the Germans from Russia,” said Houim. “They were part of the Heritage Society. So my sister and I feel very proud to be carrying on a heritage that they started.”

Steve Fritel is a member of the board of directors and is also a descendant.

He said that while Wednesday’s ceremony honored the new building, the antiques are what’s most important.

“We’re recognizing a new building, but it’s what’s inside that’s important. It’s the history, the stories, the heritage of all the things that our ancestors went through, the hard life that they live, to get to Rugby and other communities, as I said for a better life,” said Fritel.

Fritel said the museum will feature different German-Russian families.

He said that they reach out to the people on the list of surnames of those that immigrated here.

“We plan on focusing on different families through the time so it’s not gonna be oh I’ve been there, I’ve seen that,” said Fritel. “It’s gonna change, it’s gonna evolve. That’s part of, we want people to learn and see what we have here.”

The currently featured family is the Brossart family.

Valentine Brossart was a descendant of German-Russian immigrants who dreamed of a better heritage center.

After Valentine passed away, his wife, Alice, set up a legacy fund of $50,000 to be used for a new building.

Their son, Ronald, said that although his parents aren’t here to see it, he’s glad it’s open.

“Their dream, obviously I wish they were here to see it, but their dream was to see this happen and it’s now happened,” said Brossart. “Our family is very happy and proud along with everybody else that had a lot to do with this.”

Houim said visitors should come and to the center to see and appreciate the history.

“Come and see our center,” said Houim. “Just come and see the stories and appreciate who you are and what your story is.”

The Prairie Village Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thursday and Sunday.

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