Volga to Cape Fear

Eastern European and Russian migration to the Cape Fear Region in the 20th century began in earnest when agriculturalist and land developer Hugh MacRae, whose company the Carolina Trucking Development Company recruited farmers from Eastern Europe and Russia to purchase land in southeastern North Carolina and engage in truck farming. A number of people answered the company’s call and settled near Burgaw, North Carolina, particularly around St. Helena, which is now the site of the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in the state. Successive waves of migrants from Eastern Europe and Russia continued to come to Southeastern North Carolina during the Cold War and the post-Soviet era, most seeking expanded opportunities. These migrants played important roles in the economic and cultural development of the Cape Fear Region.

The purpose of The Volga to Cape Fear Project: East European and Russian Migration in the 20th Century is to make sure the historical resources that tell the stories of this migration to the Cape Fear Region are not lost to time. Working with community partners, graduate students in associate professor Tammy Gordon’s classes will conduct a material culture survey, implement an oral history project, and research, design, and fabricate a travelling exhibit about the history of 20th century Russian and East European migration to the Cape Fear region. Roza Starodubtseva, who teaches Russian language classes at UNCW is a key project team member. Her students will produce research reports on the regions from which the migrants came. Russian history professor Sue McCaffray will provide expert guidance and translation. The project team is seeking those who moved from Eastern Europe or Russia or descendents of migrants to share knowlege, participate in interviews, or loan artifacts for exhibition.

Those interested in participating may contact Tammy Gordon, Director of UNCW’s Public History Program at gordont@uncw.edu or 910-962-4244 or join the Facebook group “The Volga to Cape Fear Project”.