LUXEMBURG, Iowa — Mary Rauen was thrilled to discover a new relation from her ancestors’ home country of Luxembourg.
Rauen, of Farley, just didn’t expect him to be such a high-ranking official.
“Just to meet anyone from Luxembourg is exciting, never mind the ambassador to the United States,” she said.
Rauen was among the people who met Gaston Stronck, Luxembourg’s ambassador to the U.S., on Wednesday at a cemetery in Luxemburg. Rauen and her family members found out a few days ago that they have a blood connection to Stronck.
Stronck has been visiting several Midwest communities in his first trip to the U.S. since assuming his role. He said the COVID-19 pandemic began soon after he became ambassador, preventing him from traveling until now.
“I thought it would be a good first trip to go to the Luxembourg communities in the United States,” he said, referring to communities that have plentiful descendants of Luxembourg residents.
Among those are Luxemburg and St. Donatus, Iowa, both of which were on Stronck’s itinerary for Wednesday. He had already been to a handful of communities in western Iowa and around Belgium, Wis.
All of those communities have visible ties to their Luxembourg roots, Stronck said, including the stone-built houses common in the country’s tradition. He said he also planned to walk through the cemeteries in Luxemburg and St. Donatus to see family names that stem from Luxembourg.
Stronck noted that Luxembourg immigrants settled in this part of the state in the 19th century.
“They liked this region because it looked like Luxembourg,” he said. “The land was similar, so they could use their farming skills.”
Stronck also has a connection to the local farming community. Decades ago, some then-unknown relatives from a Dyersville, Iowa, farm reached out and met him while they were in Luxembourg, he said.
“I find it very interesting how American Luxembourgers stay connected to their ancestors,” he said.
Stronck added that becoming a Luxembourg citizen is easy, so many Americans with family roots in the country become dual citizens to keep the emotional connection alive.
Cindy Bartels, of Dubuque, said she has been trying to get her dual citizenship and has visited her ancestors’ home country 14 times. Bartels took the opportunity to drive with Stronck around the area, including the visit to meet Rauen and his other relatives for the first time.
“It was just fun to call them and tell them that a relative was here, and that it was an ambassador,” she said.
The visit also comes toward the end of Stronck’s time in his role. He said his time as ambassador will come to a close at the end of July, so he was glad to see the area’s Luxembourg roots before that happened.
“I think what’s important to us, and to any ambassador for Luxembourg, is we must keep our bonds,” he said.