Our journey to the USA in 2013
Finally, time had come on 30 September 2013 . My wife Gertrud and I had packed our bags in order to make the journey to America, which was preceded by many preparations . So we had started English lessons two years ago in evening classes. The contacts with the American relationship had been made several years ago. In Lynda Burggraff Bokker from South Dakota, we had found the right contact. She was planning a family reunion of the Burggraff. This should be in their vicinity, in Dell Rapids. So we flew from Luxembourg via Amsterdam to Minneapolis in Minnesota.
When we started there with our car, a great little jeep, we could not believe it, we were in America! The first time in our lives! A dream had become true. I had to remember how difficult it was for John Burggraff, when he left his home in Luxembourg in 1860 and set out with his family on the way to the New World. For us, the trip lasted not even one day, but for Jängi it were weeks by ship traveling in an uncertain future.
Now we roared with 65-70 miles (100-110 km) on the huge highway on the way to our goal. Meanwhile, we were awake15 hours already and still had about 400 km before us. But the new adventure kept us awake. When we bought drinks in a shop on the way, we were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of Americans. When we arrived in the evening in Dell Rapids and had finally found some food in the small town, we were incredibly tired, but went happy to bed. The impressions of the first day were: in America everything is big : the streets, the squares, the giant corn and soya fields, the cars ... About 50 % of the cars were heavy pickups, plus lots of cross-countries and very little small cars.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast, unfamiliar (pancakes, fruit, sausage) but tasty, we went to the farm of Frank and Lynda Burggraff. After several miles over rubble roads run through the corn fields when we came near her farm, the navigator told us that we had arrived. But there was no farm of our relatives. So we drove on some miles further through the fields and suddenly saw a mailbox with the name Henry Burggraff. As we drove into the yard, a giant came to meet us. I said in my bumpy English: We come from Luxembourg and we are looking Frank Burggraff. He replied, "I am Glenn Burggraff, Frank is my brother". With his help, we quickly found the farm of Frank, where we were warmly received. The farm was remote, surrounded by lots of land giant tractors and machinery were to be seen ... everything was big and heavy. But we felt extremely comfortable and even today when the warmth of the people moves me to tears.
Frank showed us the farm, explained his work and his little granddaughter drove us through the fields sitting on the lap of grandpa. In the evening we met other children of Frank and Lynda in Sioux Fall's and visited the waterfalls nearby . The Melcher family that we had met in the fall of 2012, when they had visited Germany and Luxembourg, had arrived (900 miles) from the distant Illinois and had dinner together in a Texan restaurant. The simplicity of the Americans surprised us. The restaurants were basic but plentiful and inexpensive. The clothing was casual and practical. We were also amazed at the cleanliness of the villages and towns we passed, There was no piece of paper lying on the road.
When we got to the Burggraff meeting the next day, people welcomed us with great cordiality. A whole room full of Burggraff! Although we knew no one except Lynda and Frank's family and Melcher's, there was an immediate feeling of family membership. If one considers that the common ancestor, Nicholas Burggraff, was born in 1705! It was a great pleasure to talk with the old people and exchange about the relatives.Gertrude and I sang the "Hemecht" , the Luxemburgish National anthem and a song of the emigrants about the homesickness for their native land Luxembourg. And I felt a deep connection with the American relatives.
When I consider that in the 19th century 70 000 people from Luxembourg emigrated and most of them to the USA, I am very grateful that they have found a new home there. In Minnesota 60% of residents have German -speaking roots.
In the next two weeks Gertrud and I crossed five states and had many beautiful experiences: in South Dakota, the Badlands, a magnificent rocky landscape, or a "Prairie Homestead" ... This is an earth house with barn and stables, as the first settlers built them. The Mount Rushmoore with the heads of some US presidents carved in the rock. Deadwood, a former gold mining town, where you can still see buildings from the gold rush era.
In SD we visited the " Laura Ingalls Home " to the great pleasure of our grandchildren. Laura Ingalls describes in the books "The Little Farm" the life of their family in Minnesota, Wisconsin and SD. As for me, Gertrude, the sight of the Mississippi stream we suddenly saw on a hill in front of us in the valley overwhelmed me. We visited the "Corn Palace" in SD, a large granary, whose facade is redesigned every year and only with different colored corn and cereal grains and small straw and hay bundles. This year was presented a crib. But the best experiences were the encounters with various relatives. We had tears in our eyes at each farewell and we hope to see many of them at the next meeting of the family in Luxembourg again. We also met very nice people except the relatives, to mention only the family Schmitt from Dubuque/Iowa, whose ancestors come from Luxembourg. They spontaneously invited us to a boat trip several hours on the Mississippi. As we passed an old paddle steamer boat, I felt like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn . The Schmitt 's will come to Luxembourg next year, to get to know the places of their ancestors.
Michelle and Dan Melcher showed us the city of Chicago, a grandiose city located on Lake Michigan with many attractions.
The brother of my grandfather, Jean -Michel Reuland, had a store there in the late 19th century. His daughter Sophie once told me, he had earned a lot of money deploying bread.
In Naperville Michelle Melcher showed us the church she and Dan attend. A large, modern church with approximately 1200 seats, where on weekends there are four services and the church is fully occupied each time. In this city there are four Catholic churches, as well as Lutheran, Baptist and many others. In the church we were pleasantly surprised by the informal way of the worshipers, and their frankness concerning their faith.
In Wisconsin we visited in the village of "Belgium," the Luxembourg emigrants center, which was very interesting.
At the end we would like to express our thanks.
Thank you, Tracy Burggraff, you made the contacts with the United States on Facebook. Thank you, Lynda and Frank for your hospitality, for the family reunion, for all that you showed to us have us these days. You were a present for us. Thank you, Michelle and Dan for your hospitality, for Chicago, for the time with you. We felt so comfortable with you. You have so lovely children.
Thank you, Mary and Douglas, you have also spoiled us as your guests. Thank you, Teri, you and your husband have given us excellent food. Thanks for the tour of “Eau Claire” and the theater performance of your children. Don and Marlene, you can be proud of your children. Don, it was nice to see you again. Marlene, we was pleased to get to know you.
Thank you, all Burggraff relatives who were at the meeting,You were all great!
Tim and Elizabeth Hanson, you took such a long journey upon yourself. It was nice to meet you.
Charles Van Hove, thank you for the American family tree of the Burggraff family. Through your work, the American branch could be added to the Luxembourg family tree.
Thank you, Bryan Tassava, You put your guitar at my disposal.
To all of you we say, " Welcome to Luxembourg in July 19, 2014 !"
On the last day when we returned our rent car at the airport and checked in for the return flight, we were very grateful for the many encounters and a little proud that we did that tour alone in a distant and foreign land at our age.
Gertrud an Arno Bourggraff Luxemburg.