Memories of migration

Historical society apologizes to Semá:th First Nation

Sumas Lake, known as Semá:th Lake to the local Stó:lō people, prior to it being drained by government in the 1920s. (City of Vancouver Archives)

“The draining of [Sumas Lake] and our settlement on your ancestral lands was devastating and demoralizing and disrespectful.”

That was part of an apology offered to Semá:th First Nation Chief Dalton Silver and his people by Richard Thiessen, president of the Mennonite Historical Society of B.C.

MoM 100: Using technology to bring Mennonite history to life

Brent Wiebe with his wife, Gail (l). (Photo by John Longhurst)

It’s impossible today to see what the former Mennonite homes, schools, churches and villages in Ukraine looked like in the past—back when they were full of family, farm and business life.

But by using modern technology, Brent Wiebe is giving it a good try. 

Wiebe, a member of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta, is using things like 3D scanning, virtual environments and computer animation to help people in the 21st century see what life was like for Mennonites over 100 years ago.

MoM 100: Tour like a pilgrimage for young adult

Emily Friesen. (Photo by John Longhurst)

For Emily Friesen, the Memories of Migration: Russlaender 100 Tour was like a pilgrimage.

“As I travelled on the tour, I kept thinking about what it meant for our ancestors to make this journey,” said Friesen, 28, a textile artist from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

She had read about her great-grandfather’s travels from the Soviet Union to Canada in 1927 before going on the tour.

MoM 100: Jews and Mennonites in the Soviet Union 100 years ago

Daniel Dekel-Chen. (Photo courtesy of John Longhurst)

One thing participants in the Memories of Migration: Russlaender 100 Tour have been reminded during the trip is that the experiences facing their ancestors in the Soviet Union were not unique. Other groups also faced hardship and crisis there at the same time.

This was a point underscored by Jonathan Dekel-Chen of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem at “The Russlaender Mennonites: War, Dislocation, And New Beginnings,” a July 14-15 conference at the University of Winnipeg.

MoM 100: Sängerfest in Winnipeg celebrates migration

Sangerfest at the sold out Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall on July 15. (Photo by John Longhurst)

“Tonight, we give thanks for those who made the journey.”

That’s what master of ceremonies Eric Friesen said at the start of the July 15 sängerfest in Winnipeg about those Mennonites who came to Canada from the Soviet Union—including his own ancestors.

“And how better to express that thanks than to celebrate with singing?” he then asked the over 2,300 people in the filled-to-capacity Centennial Concert Hall.

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