I am working on a history book about Dave’s parents for an upcoming family reunion. Dave’s cousin John who is the true Driedger family historian has been helping me by providing some wonderful photographs. My very favorite is this one of Dave’s Oma Margaretha Friesen, posing with her siblings and cousins in the village of Schoenfeld where they all lived.
Dave’s Oma is standing against the tree with a balalaika in her hand. One cousin with a very fashionable hat is riding bike and Margaretha’s brother Cornelius and another man are up in the tree. I think the photo reflects what I heard so often from my own grandparents about how almost idyllic and prosperous a life the Mennonites had in Ukraine before the revolution. There was time for leisure pursuits, farming was financially rewarding, Mennonites ran profitable businesses and established good schools and enjoyed music and other cultural endeavors. And then within a decade everything had changed and this whole way of life was gone.
I think this photo was probably taken around 1913. It is a reminder that a seemingly stable and good way of life can disappear dramatically.
Dave’s Christmas Present
Thoughts on Refugees
Portraits in Hope
Filed under Family, History
On Friday my three friends and I who call ourselves the T-4s, set off on another one of our adventures. This time we headed for the tiny Mennonite village of Neubergthal, Manitoba which was named a National Historic Site in 1989. We started with a drive down the streets of the village lined with cottonwood trees planted by the original Mennonite settlers in 1876. They brought the seeds with them from Ukraine when they emigrated.
First we toured the Friesen House with our very knowledgeable guide Paige. She showed us the beautiful way Mennonite women used to handpaint the floors in their homesIn the pantry we saw the pie shelf, a handy way for the Mennonite housewife to cool a whole oven full of fruit pies at one time. We looked at the honeymoon suite. It got its name because at one point two of the children in the family that owned the house got married in the same year and couldn’t afford farms of their own yet. So both couples stayed in this room together for a year before they set up their own farms. The sides of the narrow wooden beds did pull out to make them a little wider. After trying on some traditional Mennonite garb we headed to the barn which is attached to the house. This meant farmers didn’t have to go outside in cold or blizzardy weather to tend to cattle. The barn also offered a sheltered place for doing laundry and……….
there was a traditional outhouse in the barn, also handy for winter use. The heat of the animals’ bodies in the barn kept you warm and there was no need to go outdoors to the bathroom. Newspaper was supplied for toilet paper and there was a toilet for children too. Then we were off to the Hamm house across the street. Marilyn and Ray Hamm still make their home in the traditional Neubergthal house barn Ray’s grandparents once lived in. The Hamms were excited to meet my friend Esther who used to work at MCC with Ray many years ago and was a frequent guest in the Hamm home.
Ray and Marilyn told us about the history of their house and Marilyn even showed us how the old pump organ in the livingroom worked.
Later we had lunch at the Jasmine Tea Room in Altona a perfect place to talk about our adventure over homemade soups, fresh salads and warm biscuits with jam.
Paige will still be giving tours in Neubergthal for the next couple weeks so check out their website if you are interested in learning more about Mennonite history in a ‘hands on’ interesting way.
Introducing Friends from India to Mennonites
Should the T-4s Get Tattoos
Mennonites in Gone Girl
Filed under History, T-4s
I admire their patience and tolerance. Their stories make me feel sad, angry, guilty and humble.
I belong to a church that is part of a national group of 225 congregations called Mennonite Church Canada. Recently a video was released that shares the experiences of LGBTQ people who are open and honest about their sexual identities and have continued to remain involved in their Mennonite Church Canada congregations. The national body does not officially sanction their lifestyle choices but some of the congregations in which they are active have become welcoming churches that accept LGBTQ people as members.
These interviews were filmed in the pews of the Mennonite church buildings across Canada where the interviewees attend church.
I invite you to take time to listen to them. Just click on the words Listening Church below.
Can Spirituality and Sexuality Dance Together?
Some Mennonite Not All of Them
Letter From the Mother of a Gay Son
My husband Dave’s grandparents Abram and Margaretha Driedger were refugees who arrived in Canada in 1924
I am from a refugee family. My grandparents and my husband’s grandparents were refugees who came to Canada from Ukraine. Having just lived through the violence of a World War, a civil war and raids by ruthless bandits on their homes and communities many were traumatized. They came to Canada without money and only a few belongings. The Canadian Pacific Railway had to finance their trip. They had survived a recent famine in Ukraine so their state of health was less than ideal.
My husband Dave’s grandparents Heinrich and Gertrude Enns were refugees who arrived in Canada in 1925
They were Mennonites, a religious sect often misunderstood by their new Canadian neighbours. Here was a group of people who insisted on speaking German, wanted their own private schools and refused to serve in the military.
My grandparents Diedrich and Margareta Peters refugees who came to Canada in 1923
Yet they were accepted into Canada and their descendants have served and enriched this country by making outstanding contributions in almost every area of Canadian life and culture.
My grandparents became prosperous Canadian farmers whose fifty-four descendants serve their country as school administrators, speech therapists, nurses, media personalities, pharmacists, professors, physicians, professional musicians, agriculturalists, journalists, service managers, postal workers and teachers.
I’m so glad the government of Canada accepted my family when they were refugees. What if they hadn’t?
On My Grandparents’ Farm
School for the Deaf- My Father-in-Law’s Birthplace
Today I am remembering……….
My grandfather Diedrich Peters who was forced to join the 167th regiment of the communist army in Russia when he was 21. His one brother was forced into service with the Germans and another with the Czarist army. Grandpa went through boot camp but when it came time to train with rifles he went to his commanding officer and said as a Mennonite with pacifist beliefs he refused to do the training. He was arrested and imprisoned, an experience he said was so terrible he could not talk about it. Eventually an army general, who knew and respected my grandfather, managed to arrange his release and sent him to work in the bakery. Grandpa eventually became the bakery foreman and with the help of two assistants baked bread for more than 60,000 soldiers.
My husband Dave’ grandfather Heinrich Enns (second from right) who was stationed in Moscow as a medic on hospital train #183 during World War I. He cared for the wounded as they were brought from the first aid hospitals on the fighting front to Moscow. In this photo Dave’s grandmother has come to Moscow to consult with her husband and her brothers-in-law about what to do about their family farm which Dave’s grandmother was trying to run herself while the men in the family served on the medical trains. By 1917 Heinrich and the other Mennonite medics were working day and night. They cleaned the trains to ready them for the next batch of wounded as they sped back to the front. My husband Dave’s grandfather Abram Driedger who nearly died of typhoid fever while serving with the Red Cross on the Caucasus front during World War I. He was assigned to pick up wounded soldiers on active battlefields and transport them to hospitals or first aid stations. He served from 1914-1917.
Heinrich and Gertrude Enns
Autographs From a Conscientious Objector Camp
A Statue to Women Soldiers
There weren’t too many surprises for me in the movie Gone Girl which we saw on Friday night. I had read the book so I knew what was coming plot wise. There were however two surprising lines of dialogue that caught my attention.
The first was the mention of Winnipeg. The movie’s heroine Amy played by Rosamund Pike gets in trouble and calls a former boyfriend Desi played by Neil Patrick Harris to come and rescue her. They rendezvous at a casino. A man bumps into Desi and Amy at the casino bar and says he is sure he recognizes Amy.
It is important that Amy remain incognito so Desi tries to throw the man off by lying and assuring the fellow there is no way he can know Amy because Amy comes from…………..( Desi quickly thinks of the most obscure place he can)…….. Winnipeg.
Amy’s college writing instructor husband Nick played by Ben Affleck has been having an affair with a beautiful student of his named Andie who is dressed very provocatively when Amy catches them kissing one night . While Amy is leaving the casino her eye is drawn to a television screen where she sees Andie her husband’s girlfriend holding a press conference. For her press conference Andie wants to play the role of innocent young school girl seduced by an older man so her conservative hairstyle, modest clothing and lack of make up are in stark contrast to her former seductive appearance. Seeing her Amy says ………. “She looks like a ### Mennonite.”
As a Mennonite and a Winnipegger I object to the way both Mennonites and Winnipeggers are portrayed in Gone Girl. The movie implies Winnipeg is some insignificant out-of-the-way place no one has heard of and that all Mennonites are conservative, straight-laced and plain. Nothing could be further from the truth in both cases.
Other posts about Mennonites, Winnipeg and movies……..
Mennonite Names At the Movies
Letter From the Mother of a Gay Son
I Went to Jail
Noah – A Violent Movie About A Violent Story