Living Contacts

Having learned that the name of Sister Cities of Gedern’s president was Gundlach, some families in Columbia with the same name wrote to Gedern to find out if there was a relationship. The ancestors of these families, however, all came from the southern part of Hesse, from the area of the Taunus Mountains, whereas Barbara Gundlach and her husband Herbert were from Northern Hesse.

In the middle of the 19th century some members of the Gundlach family helped to build Columbia. For this reason a house, which is now listed on the National Historic Register, and a street were named after them.

During their first visit to Columbia in 1993 Barbara and Herbert Gundlach stayed with Ingrid and Tom Soraghan. Since Ingrid Soraghan and her mother had emigrated from Germany to the USA in the 1950s, they wanted to learn a lot about Germany. While talking they found out that Ingrid’s and Herbert’s mothers had been born in the Ukraine. When the maiden names were mentioned and Herbert Gundlach reported what he knew about his mother, it became clear that both mothers were cousins. Having seen each other for the last time in 1940, the two cousins were able to meet again in 1996.

It is hard to believe what chance can do. Although she was interested in the exchange with Columbia right away, Barbara Gundlach happened to become president of Sister Cities of Gedern by accident. It’s true, the first trip to Columbia together with her husband was planned, but their stay with the Soraghans was pure chance. And they would not have found out about their family ties unless they had talked so much during their visit.

Many families in Columbia speak at least some German. The visits are also intended to give our American friends an opportunity to brush up their German and to keep up the German traditions.