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Gertrude Inspires Me

I have this sepia coloured 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 Unruh.

She was married to Heinrich Enns who sits to her immediate right in his military medical uniform. You can see the Red Cross on his hat on the table. The other two men are Gertrude’s brothers-in-law.  Peter Enns to her left was obviously in military service too and Cornelius Neufeld to her right with the accounting book ran the families vast land holdings in Siberia and other parts of Ukraine. 

My husband’s grandfather and his family on the lake in front of their estate in Ukraine.

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 estate 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 the small village of Rudneweide where her family had a modest farm. Her wealthy husband had met her while on a visit to the village with a friend.  

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 labour shortages as estate servants left their jobs to join the army. The 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 her husband Heinrich and her brothers-in-law 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 and cared for her children and mother-in-law while the men in her family were away at war and times were incredibly tough. Gertrude inspires me!

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Luxury Car- A Family Story

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 colour.

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!

A newspaper ad for a car dealership in the Moltchna area where Heinrich’s family lived was sent to me by a blog reader. It may well be the dealership where Heinrich purchased his car. 

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. 

Other posts………

Family Blueprints

Who Owns Family Stories? 

Dave’s Christmas Present

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