For Alana Regier of Saskatoon, being part of the “Memories of Migration” tour was a way to “learn about my heritage.”
The 25-year-old, who will be a substitute teacher in the fall, heard about it from a relative and applied to win a sponsorship to be part of the tour.
“I had limited knowledge about the journey of my great-grandparents, who were part of the 1923 to 1930 migration,” she said. “I realized if I don’t make an effort to find out more, more knowledge will be lost.”
Being on the tour has “sparked an interest in my family’s history,” she said.
Regier was one of 16 young adults who were sponsored to be part of the tour. She was on the third leg, from Saskatchewan to B.C.
Also on the third leg was Kailey Schroeder, 22, of Steinbach, Manitoba.
Schroeder has no family connections to the 1923 to 1930 migration—her ancestors came to Canada in the 1870s. But she does have an interest in history, including Mennonite history.
“I find Mennonite history intriguing,” she said, noting that on the tour she has enjoyed hearing stories from participants.
Schroeder has been struck by how different people on the tour are and how open everyone is to sharing their stories.
“It’s been easy to connect with people,” she said, adding sometimes the sharing is very emotional. “I am inspired by how much people want to share their stories.”
“It’s a privilege to be able to hear those stories,” she added.
Theo Loewen of Winnipeg is a history buff, so a tour like this was something he was eager to do.
Like Schroeder, he doesn’t have ties to the Russlaender migration; his grandparents came to Canada after the Second World War.
The tour is giving him a sense of “how big Mennonite history is,” he said, adding he has enjoyed connecting with older tour members.
Derek Froese of Abbotsford was on the third leg of the trip with his longtime friend Jason Ho. “We’ve been on a journey together on the tour exploring our heritage,” he said, noting they have been reading the writings of Menno Simons in preparation for the trip.
Froese’s grandparents were part of the 1923 to 1930 migration, but his knowledge of their journey was “superficial,” he said. Now he knows more about their journey, their faith and the historical forces that forced them to leave the Soviet Union.
Through the tour, he was able to learn more about the migration story. “It was a great opportunity and a massive blessing” to be sponsored to be part of it, he said, adding it was good to learn more about Mennonites beyond his own community.
After reporting on the first leg of the tour (from Quebec City to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.), Winnipeg freelance writer John Longhurst is blogging about the third and final leg (from Saskatoon, Sask. to Abbotsford, B.C.).
Read John's previous posts about the tour:
MoM 100: Southeast Asian refugee migration remembered
MoM 100: B.C. concert explores ‘Music Along the Journey’
MoM 100: Grandfather and grandson bond on tour
MoM 100: Remembering a mother reluctant to talk about those times
MoM 100: Pregnant tour participant has new appreciation for great-grandmother’s journey