I have this sepia colored photograph on my bedroom dresser. It was taken in Moscow during World War I. The beautiful brown-eyed young woman in it with her fashionable dress and hair piled high is my husband’s maternal grandmother Gertrude. She was married to Heinrich Enns who sits to her immediate right in his military uniform.
Heinrich’s family owned a large estate in Kowalicha, Ukraine and while the men of the family were away serving in the Russian army’s medical corps Gertrude was left alone to run the family’s massive land holdings and deal with her irascible mother-in-law who objected to her son’s marriage to Gertrude because Gertrude’s family wasn’t rich enough. Gertrude came from a small village where her family had a modest farm. Her wealthy husband had met her while on a visit to the village with a friend. I believe the man to the far right is Gertrude’s brother-in-law who ran the family’s land holdings in other parts of Ukraine.
Gertrude with her four sons.
Gertrude had four little boys and with her husband far away working on the trains transporting the wounded from the battlefront to Moscow, Gertrude was single parenting and making all the decisions about the education and upbringing of her children.
There were labor shortages as estate servants left their jobs to join the army. Weather had damaged some crops, and roving bandits had been seen on the estates’ far flung properties. Gertrude decided she needed to go to Moscow and meet with Heinrich and his brothers to get some advice about what to do. That’s when the photo of Gertrude at a family business meeting was taken.
I never met my husband’s grandmother Gertrude but whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities I look at Gertrude’s photo and think about how a girl from a small village farm ran a huge business all on her own while the men in her family were away at war and times were incredibly tough. Getrude inspires me!
Gertrude and Heinrich Enns
Luxury Car- A Family Story
Filed under Family, History
Heinrich Enns and his wife Gertrude
In 1912 my husband’s maternal grandfather Heinrich Enns bought a new car. It was a German made Opel. The average car at the time was priced at around $700. The Opel’s price tag was double that at $1,500 which gives you some idea of the wealth of Enns family.
Heinrich and Gertrude Enns lived on his family’s large estate in Kowalicha, near the Schoenfeld Mennonite settlement in Ukraine.
My husband’s grandfather and his family on the lake in front of their estate
The Opel Heinrich bought was an open touring car and was a deep red color.
A car exactly like Heinrich’s is in the Museum Sinsheim in Germany- Photos of the Opel by Kai Gruszczynski.
When the family went driving through their home village of Kowalicha or went down the road to neighbouring Schoenfeld, where they attended church and where their children went to school, Heinrich sat behind the wheel in a full driving costume complete with goggles.
This map of the Schoenfeld settlement was made by Henry B. Wiens in 1912. Kowalicha where the Enns family lived is marked by a star.
Beside Heinrich in the front seat of the Opel were his two older sons Peter and Henry. In the back seat was his wife Gertrude and his two younger sons Johann and Diedrich as well as the boys’ nanny.
Dave’s grandmother Gertrude Enns with her four sons outside their house in Kowalicha. Their nanny is behind the fence.
If rain threatened a canvas was pulled over the top of the car and fastened down with buttons. People in the village would come out to see the beautiful automobile. The village dogs were especially intrigued by the car. They would run behind it barking and howling. It must have made quite a picture!
The car as well as all the family’s wealth was lost during the Communist Revolution in Russia. After Heinrich’s family immigrated to Canada they were beset by a series of financial, agricultural and health difficulties that meant they were never able to afford another luxury car like that magnificent red Opel.
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Dave’s Christmas Present
Filed under Family, History