Saturday, July 19, 2008

Celebrating our Common Heritage

I recently suggested to a fellow G-R that the challenge of organizing and implementing a joint international convention of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) might be a bit more difficult than one would suspect. Nearly a thousand of us will be under one roof at the Parkway Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Casper from July 28 – August 3.

“But we’re all Germans from Russia….we’re not that different,” she noted.

I agree. And the differences that do exist probably have more to do with a whole range of factors other than our German-Russian heritage. Even so, there's a wonderful mosaic of diversity within our own German-Russian heritage.

AHSGR and GRHS are two different organizations. While they may have somewhat similar purposes, they were created differently and have evolved differently. Simply put, they often do things differently!

Enter Al Feist of Hebron, North Dakota, and Patti Sellenrick of Sheridan, Wyoming – the Co-Chairs for the 2008 International Convention of Germans from Russia.

Patti is the AHSGR representative; Al is from GRHS. For the past 18 months or so, these two people have altered their lives, voluntarily, to help plan and execute the Casper convention. Of course they’ve been assisted by several dozens of other volunteers – but the real responsibility and burden has been shouldered by these two able individuals. If the collegiality of the Planning Committee is a precursor to the fun attendees will find at the convention in Casper, it’ll be a grand time. Not that all will be perfect – the logistics for a gathering of this size is not without its hazards!

As a member of the Planning Committee, I believe our group has admired and appreciated the way Patti and Al have worked together – providing an encouraging example for the rest of us. They’ve brought to the planning table the cultures and nuances of their respective organizations, while underscoring the importance of compromise and an appreciation of new approaches.

Through numerous face-to-face meetings in places like Bismarck, Rapid City, Gillette, Casper, these two folks have enlisted the services and facilitated the work of the entire Planning Committee. Beyond that, of course, have been the countless hours on the telephone and communicating through e-mail in preparation for the event that is about to occur.

Will things be a little different in Casper? Undoubtedly. But there’ll be lots of familiar activities and events, too. I would encourage you to enjoy the familiar things you find, rejoice in the “new things” you encounter, and help us all count our blessings for the many wonderful attributes of the people who comprise AHSGR and GRHS. It really is a time for us to be Celebrating our Common Heritage!

And when you see Al Feist or Patti Sellenrick, give them a pat on the back for a job well done!

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