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Northern State professor translates memoir of Russian Revolution survivor

Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 6:35 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Getting a chance to preserve a piece of history, a professor of German at Northern State is releasing a full translation of a German survivor’s account of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Dr. Ginny Lewis was presented with a manuscript of the life of Heinrich Neuwirt, a Volga German who lived through and escaped the early years of the Soviet Union. When given the 102 page manuscript almost five years ago, she didn’t know if she’d have the time to sit down and give it a full translation into English.

But after some convincing from the NSU Germans from Russia Cultural Center, she dove into the story. Lewis has translated a number of German manuscripts before, each one unique from the other. But says this memoir in particular was different not because of it’s writing difficulty or time in history, but the details of Neuwirt’s life of hardship and struggle after the revolution.

“There are just a few pages of ‘I had this awesome boyhood. This idealistic experience growing up on the Volga River.’ And then after a couple of pages; boom, Bolshevik Revolution, 1917. He was a teenager, his life was turned upside down.” Lewis says.

Lewis knew soon after she began her translation that it’s a story that needed to be published, so that other’s may have a window to look through into early 20th century Russia.

“History that I think in someways speaks to us more than a lot of the more traditional history we get presented with, which is based on political conflicts, wars, colonization and this kind of thing. What happened in people’s every day lives, how where they affected by those historical forces that were often, just sort of running rush out over them?”

After considering how to get the manuscript out to the public, Lewis and Northern State eventually agreed to publish it with Peter Lang Publishing, which publishes all sorts of academic literature. Lewis says working with the NSU Germans from Russia Cultural Center has given her pride in working with her colleagues, and their mission to educate people on an important group in South Dakota’s history.

“I feel fortunate to be involved with the Germans from Russia Center at Northern, that we can move this mission forward.”

More information about Neuwirt’s memoir and how to get it can be found here.

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