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With Sincere Gratitude

I am pleased to share credit with many contributors. I wish every author could have such a fantastic support team!


Family and friends have provided ongoing motivation, support, and valuable insights for the past seven plus years. Special thanks go to my husband, Randy Rye, sons Jim Stafford and Elliot Stafford, sister Janette Laubhan, and friends Gail Johnson, Teresa Ivie Robison, Sandy Lang, Sydney Burton, Renee Cottrell, and Terry Powell. Without my son Jim’s interest in family history and ongoing encouragement, I would not have completed this book. The project has appropriately been a multi-generational family effort.


Authors and creative writing professors Alyson Hagy and Ann McCutchan generously lent expertise in strategic direction and writing style. Finally, my sincere gratitude goes to Sherri Hutton and the excellent staff at Rowe Publishing (, who painstakingly led me through the entire process. As a first-time author, I appreciate their patient, professional guidance and support.

The Empress’ Gift is based on fictionalized renderings of actual events and written recollections, retaining as much historical authenticity as possible. The book’s timeline has been compressed somewhat to allow for a continuous narrative. While the book’s characters are fictitious, many were inspired by historic individuals, including relatives who arrived several years after the first pioneers. The story was developed from many original family documents and other vital sources. Of utmost importance were the vast resources of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR:


Ellen Laubhan

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