VICTORIA — Reinhold and Sonja Nusselein planned their wedding around when their friends from Victoria could make the trip to their country to attend the ceremony.
The Nusseleins make a habit of visiting this small town in western Kansas every five years, now accompanied by their two daughters.
The Nusseleins, who were married in 1997 in their hometown of Kubelstein, Germany, made their regular trip to Ellis County last week, visiting Kubelstein’s sister city of Victoria, a town with rich Volga-German heritage.
And this was a milestone year. The Sister Cities partnership between Kubelstein and Victoria is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It was established in 1990 by Elmar Messinger from Catharine and Heinrich Gotz, then-mayor of Kubelstein.
Messinger had married a German woman when he was serving in the military. Messinger was living in New York in 1990, but with his ties to Ellis County, set in motion the partnership between the two cities through Sister Cities International.
Gotz and his wife, Marga, have hosted people from Victoria in their German home several times, and they have made six trips to Victoria as well, including this 25th anniversary trip.
On this particular visit, the Nusseleins showed off the campus of Fort Hays State University in nearby Hays to their daughters Anna Lena, 14, and Lana, 12.
“It is so big,” Reinhold Nusselein said, with an emphasis on the word “so.”
“We don’t have so big universities in Germany,” Nusselein added.
Reinhold Nusselein can speak some English, along with his daughters, who are required to learn English in the fifth grade, then add another foreign language to their school curriculum in seventh grade.
But Gotz spoke in German, which was interpreted by Victoria resident Ilona Patterson, a native of Germany.
In a ceremony at the Victoria VFW, Victoria Mayor Jerry Kanzenbach presented Gotz a framed certificate in honor of the 25th anniversary of the partnership between Victoria, population 1,234, and Kubelstein, a small village of approximately 130 residents.
The Germans and Victoria residents exchanged other gifts among them and had fun visiting, much like every time they meet up.
Kay Werth, who grew up in Victoria and sponsors the German visitors when they come to Ellis County, has visited Germany several times.
In fact, she and her husband, Dick Werth, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Germany last year, visiting their Kubelstein friends.
“It’s so much fun having this relationship,” Kay Werth said. “Fun going there, fun when they come here. We learn a lot from each other.”
Their German friends agree.
“Twenty-five years is a long time to be friends with Victoria,” Heinrich Gotz said through Patterson’s interpretation. “We’ve traveled 26 states, but it’s always nice to come back to Victoria. It’s always nice to see these friends again.”
Father Earl Meyer, a Capuchin priest living in the St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, took up a conversation with the visitors and gave them a blessing in German.
“We’re very happy with your visit,” Meyer told their German friends, “and have a safe trip back.”