HÉMECHT: LUXEMBOURGERS MAKING A NEW HOME IN WINONA COUNTY, MINNESOTA, a documentary on the Luxembourgers of Winona County, will debut Monday evening, June 18, 2012 at Alverna Center, 1175 West 7th Street, on the St. Teresa Campus of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm.
The free showing of this 65-minute DVD will be preceded by welcoming remarks from special guest Kevin Wester, Director of the Luxembourg American Cultural Center in Belgium, Wisconsin. Guy Dockendorf, honorary director general of the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture, and Kevin Ries, Luxembourg Consul for Minnesota, also are expected to attend. Present too will be Mary Nilles, co-author of the film script (written with historian Jean Ensch, Strassen, Luxembourg), as well as a number of persons interviewed for this project. Refreshments will be served, courtesy of Rollingstone’s Luxembourg American Society and “Friends of Hémecht-NYC.”
The word “Hémecht” (another, more modern, spelling is “Heemecht”) means “home” in Lëtzebuergesch, the native language of the Grand Duchy. This word would have been used by the immigrants who a century and a half ago were pushed and pulled from Luxembourg to the Midwest by a variety of social, economic and political forces. Luxembourgers began to arrive in Winona County in the mid-1850s, settling principally in the communities of Rollingstone, Elba, Minneiska, Lewiston, St. Charles, and in downtown Winona. Today, their descendants reside across the County. Many of them still recall their family’s immigration history, and continue traditions that are a vital part of the “Luxembourger-American” culture. Some have traveled back to Europe—to visit cousins, sightsee, and to serve in both World War I and World War II. Through a Sister City arrangement, Winona County residents have welcomed visitors from the Grand Duchy into their homes.
The publication of Roger Krieps’1963 book, Luxemburger in Amerika, in honor of the millennium of the City of Luxembourg, furthered an interest in “the American colonies” on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over the past four decades, contacts with Luxembourg have been re-invigorated through tourism, Fulbright exchanges and research grants awarded to Winona County residents; the establishment of Rollingstone’s Luxembourg Heritage Museum and its Luxembourg American Society; the annual winter Träipefest; a Rollingstone-Bertrange, Luxembourg Sister City Exchange; and the restoration of the Marnach House in the Whitewater Valley.
Most recently, several grants from the Luxembourg Ministry and the “2007 Year of Culture” initiative created a series of County-wide activities that celebrated two major events: the selection of Luxembourg City and Greater Region as the 2007 Culture Capital of Europe; and the 150th birthday of the Marnach House.
More recently, as part of Luxembourg’s 2007 Culture Capital of Europe celebration, film makers Chris Wagner of Luxembourg and Willy Perlsztejn, Brussels, visited Winona County twice. In both 2005 and 2006 they gathered footage for their October 2007 DVD entitled, “Luxemburg, USA.”
The Nilles-Ensch “Hémecht” film, written and directed by a Luxembourger-American team, was filmed in the Grand Duchy, Winona County and in New York City. Mary Nilles and her students wrote an “Immigrant Trunk” related Study Guide. Meanwhile, at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Design major Sam Pflughoeft created posters as well, under the guidance of Brother Roderick Robertson of the Art & Design Department. Artwork done previously by students in New York, Minnesota and Luxembourg has been incorporated into the film.
Narrators of the film include local residents representing various professions. Among them, Winona’s former poet-laureate, Ken McCullough, Bob Bambenek, president of the Winona County Old Settlers’ Association; Old Settlers, including Karen Hadtke and the late Marge Vongroven; Walt Bennick; Connie Lewis Rader, Jean Reed Kalmes; Fathers Paul Breza and Don Lovas; Adelaide Seiwert Haxton and her brother Hilbert Seiwert; Don Guidinger, Marion Ginsterblum Carroll; Nancy Mauer Roberts, Mary Coughlan, Andrew Foss, Mary Singer; Jon Cole and Dave Palmquist; Ginny Rivers Lehnertz and her mother, Veronica Arnoldy Rivers; members of the Myrton and Dorothy Leisen Stoos family, members of several Speltz families, including Dr. Jerome Speltz, Richard and Cyril Speltz, Keith and Teresa Speltz, Cyndi Speltz Gipp and Shirley Rock Speltz; Kevin Ries; Martha Speltz Demetriou, Rita Frisch Hartert; and Brother Paul Grass of St. Paul, now a retired editor of the St Mary’s Press, and a former professor and vice-president at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota; Steve Sula; Robert Pack and Mary Nilles.
Music was supplied by performers in The United States and in Europe; among them, David Echelard and Susanne Cooley; Cyril Kendrick; Ed Legace, Ron’s Old Time Band and The Beef Slough Boys; The Troaterbattien, and Jean-Pol Meis and Jos Schartz of 2000 Volt; Tammy Mascha Schmit and the Holy Trinity Church congregation.
“Hémecht” has been funded by a grant from the “Roots and Leaves Association,” Luxembourg City, and by private donations.
Copies of “Hémecht” (copyright by Mary Nilles & Jean Ensch, 2012) will be available for purchase by check or cash on June 18th. For more information call Dorothy Stoos at (507) 689-2139; Jean Kalmes, Luxembourg Heritage Museum director at (507) 689-2307; or email: LUXED@Charter.net.
Mr. Guy Dockendorf, director general of the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture, is being sent to welcome all on Monday, June 18th, to the premiere showing of the “Hemecht” documentary at Alverna Center, 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm;
Ambassador Jean-Paul Sennigner will show the film in Washington at his Reception to honor the national holiday of Luxembourg, on June 22nd. WINONA COUNTY GOES TO WASHINGTON!!!