Village News

   As someone who works in a museum, I find it so interesting to see items considered so precious that families have kept them for many years. It is often our privilege to accept these items into our collection here at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) so that we can preserve both the object and the stories that go with it.

   Sometimes families keep items that remind them of where they have come from (for example, our collection of china brought over from Russia in the 1920s). Other times, families keep objects that remind them of loved ones lost. One such item which recently came to my attention is a chemise that had stayed in a family from the time it was made in 1879 until it was donated to us last year.

   This chemise belonged to Maria (Toews) Krueger (1857-1889), who lived in Rosental, Chortitza Colony, South Russia (now Ukraine). She probably made and embroidered this chemise herself, likely to go into her dowry chest in preparation for her marriage. She married Jacob Krueger (1852-1921), of the clock-making Kroeger/Kruegers, on May 17, 1879. According to the donor, Maria would have first worn this chemise on her wedding night.

   Tragically, Maria passed away after giving birth to her sixth child in 1889. We don't know if she gave birth in the Rosental hospital (built in 1874) or if she was attended by a midwife. If the latter, this person who had helped Maria throughout her labour would probably have been the same one who then prepared her body for burial. After these preparations were completed, but before her body was put into its shroud, it was dressed in this chemise for one last time. It is unclear whether the wearing of the same chemise for one's wedding night and after ones death was a custom, or whether this was simply the most convenient garment at hand.

   Jacob married Maria Hamm (1865-1954) just over a year after Maria Krueger's death. This doesn't seem like a long time to us, but often Mennonite men and women remarried only months after the death of their spouse.

   Maria’s chemise was passed down to her daughter, also named Maria (1883-1974), presumably as a memento of her deceased mother. Daughter Maria brought it with her when she and her family emigrated to Canada in 1900. Maria (later Voth) then passed it down to her own children, and it stayed within the family until her granddaughter donated it to MHV.

   You can see this chemise on display in our permanent gallery.

Calendar of Events

November 6 – Vespers Service, 7:00 PM

November 11 – Closed for Remembrance Day

November 12 – Conscientious Objector (CO) monument unveiling ceremony, 11:00 AM

Village News

Manitoba Museums

   Several weeks ago I was elected to the Council (Board of Directors) of the Association of Manitoba Museums (AMM) at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Boissevain, Manitoba. This group, which seeks to serve the museums of Manitoba in a variety of ways, holds its annual conference and AGM jointly every fall.

   According to the AMM website, there are nearly 200 museums in Manitoba. A museum is defined as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.” This includes “exhibition places such as art galleries and science and interpretation centres; institutions with plant and animal collections and displays, such as botanical gardens, bio domes, zoos, aquariums and insectariums; cultural establishments that facilitate the preservation, continuation and management of tangible and intangible living heritage resources, such as keeping houses and heritage centres; and natural, archaeological, ethnographic and historical monuments and sites.”

   The museums located in our province include a variety of sizes. There are very small museums in smaller communities, staffed entirely by volunteers; medium-sized museums, such as Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV); and large museums, like the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, which operates with a multi-million-dollar budget.

   The AMM seeks to provide support and services for all sizes and types of museums. For professional development training, the Certificate Program in Museum Practice consists of seven courses designed to assist museum staff and volunteers in developing and operating their respective museums. A Cultural Stewardship program offers site visits by a trained conservator, environment-monitoring equipment loans, emergency-preparedness plan development, pest management, and information on resources for museum supplies and services. Advocacy support is provided by connecting with other museum organizations, such as the Canadian Museum Association, and attending museum events like Canadian Museums Day, which takes place on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, as well as creating and supporting museum awareness initiatives such as Manitoba Day in May.

   As a member of the AMM Council, I will represent the Eastern Region, which is one of seven designated regions in the province. I look forward to connecting with the 14 museums located in this Eastern Region and would enjoy visiting each of them if possible.

   The AMM website states: “the Association believes that museums are an important and integral part of society. They are places of learning, and connection to each other, the past, and the future. They are meeting places and places of solitude. They make a positive contribution to a community’s quality of life, economically and otherwise.” I most certainly agree.

Calendar of Events

November 6 – Vespers Service, 7:00 PM

November 11 – Closed for Remembrance Day

Village News

A New Season

   The ending of our summer season marks the beginning of a new and different season of activity at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). Although our outdoor village and the Livery Barn Restaurant are now closed until May 1, 2017, we want everyone to know that the museum is still open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. Guests continue to have access to our indoor galleries, our gift shop and our meeting rooms.

   So what will keep our staff busy now as we head for year-end? Normal fall activities include preparing our heritage buildings and the rest of the village for winter, writing and analyzing reports on our 2016 operations, preparing exhibits and education materials that will develop our theme in the new year, fundraising to try to close the year with a balanced financial statement, applying for grants to fund staff positions and projects next year, and writing strategic plans and budgets for the next year’s operations. This is also the time of year when some of our staff take time off to use up banked hours from a very busy summer season.

   But this particular fall we have a number of unique activities happening. As Alexandra Kroeger noted in last week’s Village News column, for about the last two months we’ve hosted a traveling exhibit in our Gerhard Ens Gallery. Along the Road to Freedom is moving on to another venue so will be taken down and packaged for shipping right after Thanksgiving. Our curators will then reinstall Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women, which will occupy that gallery for the balance of the year.

   Last week we had a sod-turning ceremony to initiate construction of our Summer Pavilion. This building will replace the big white tent next year and will provide many new opportunities for MHV programs and community activities. Penn-Co is eager to get the project underway shortly so that the concrete work can be done before the ground freezes and also to ensure that the new building will be ready for use by May 1, 2017. We are very excited about the fact that we will not need to erect the tent in spring and that we will have so much added functionality.

   For almost a year, we had been looking for a contractor to do log-wall repairs to the Waldheim House, our oldest building. Both exterior and interior walls need to be refurbished. We are pleased that Myron Hiebert and Michael Klassen have come forward with considerable passion for the restoration of this 1876 house. Their project too will begin this month and be completed for our 2017 season. We are currently looking for a qualified craftsman to put a new thatched roof on that house next summer.

   Our iconic windmill is also undergoing some restoration this fall. Bob’s Woodworking will be installing new louvres on the main sails of the windmill. These louvres are there to allow the operator to adjust according to the amount of wind available and the amount of power required to grind the wheat. Additionally, Broesky Painting will be painting the new louvres, the railing around the main deck and a few other critical areas of the windmill.

   While our Foundations for a Strong Future development initiative has had a very encouraging response from our constituency, businesses, governments and foundations, we still need to raise just over $1,000,000 to complete the campaign. Raising that amount of money, plus the usual funds which are essential to close this year in the black, will be a significant task.

   So while our hours of operation and our activities are different now than during the summer tourism season, we still find our days and weeks slipping by with almost alarming speed. But staff are happy to now have our weekends available again for some of the personal things we couldn’t do during those busy summer months.

Calendar of Events

October 10 – Closed for Thanksgiving Day

November 6 – Vespers Service, 7:00 PM

Village News

   It's been a busy summer season in the Curatorial Department at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). We opened the first of our two temporary exhibits, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women, in early June, but then uninstalled it so we could open a traveling exhibit, Along the Road to Freedom, in early August. While we were choosing the artefacts, writing exhibit text, and making mounts, we were also busy taking part in all our regular summer events. We hung out at Summer in the City, inviting people to guess what the artefact we were displaying in our booth was called, and we also gave tours at MHV on our festival days.

   I've had people ask me what we could possibly be working on after the Village closes on September 30. The Curatorial Department is certainly less visible to the public than some other areas of museum life, but we’re always busy working behind the scenes, regardless of the season.

   First on our agenda now will be uninstalling and then reinstalling the two previously mentioned exhibits. Along the Road to Freedom closes after Thanksgiving (October 10), at which point we will uninstall it and ship it to its next destination, and then focus on reinstalling Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women in the gallery space. Beyond Tradition will open for this second showing in our Gerhard Ens Gallery on October 24 and run until spring 2017.

   During the winter we have the opportunity to complete all of the tasks that we didn't have time for during the summer. I myself will be dealing with all the artefacts that we accepted over the summer and didn't have time to catalogue. This will help me complete another of my goals, which is to tidy our office and lab space. Maybe I'll even have the time to complete a few of the projects I started last winter!

   Our major project for the winter will be planning next year's exhibit, which will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation. Although there weren't any Mennonites in Manitoba in 1867, we want to celebrate this occasion from a uniquely Mennonite perspective. Over the winter we will be doing research and refining our exhibit concept. Then, based on our research, we will tease out the major themes that we want to focus on, do more research, and choose which artefacts to display to support the story we're telling. We are always looking for opportunities to build relationships with schools and organizations in our community, so a major part of our theme for 2017 will be a specific focus on strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones, as we seek to extend MHV’s celebration of Canada’s 150th into the community. Stay tuned for more details on our exciting new theme and watch for some of the ways we’ll be partnering with local students and other organizations to share in this significant celebration!

   While for many people December 1 signals the start of the Christmas season, for our Curatorial Department it also signals the height of the annual “Grant-Writing Season.” One of our projects over the summer has been to conduct a thorough Building Maintenance Inventory, which encompassed all our heritage buildings and replicas in the Village. This vital tool will help us identify the buildings most in need of maintenance and restoration work and will guide our grant-writing process over the next months. We rely on grants to perform expensive maintenance on our priceless heritage buildings in the Village, to help us prepare and present a new exhibit every year, and to complete other projects throughout the year. Without support from granting agencies, we simply wouldn’t be able to do the work we do at MHV. Our Curatorial Department is especially appreciative of the support we’ve received from a number of funders for projects that we have either finished this past summer or will continue working on for next year. These include the Canada 150: Community Infrastructure Program at the federal level and the Heritage Grants Program and Community Places at the provincial level.

   After our grant applications have been submitted, it's only a short while until we re-open the Village and dive head-first into the Summer 2017 season with the implementing of our new theme, including the installation of our new exhibit. As you can see, our Curatorial Department isn't busy with the same things all year round, but there is rarely a dull moment, and even before the first snowflake flies we’re already planning for the long, hot summer days of next year.

Calendar of Events

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 PM

- September 30: Last day of operations for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the outdoor village.

Village News

“Who are your parents?”

   When I am introduced to people who have a few more years behind their belts than I do, I’m frequently asked that question we’ve likely all been asked at one time or another: “So who are your parents?” And because I grew up in the Burwalde school district between Winkler and Morden, the people from my present home community rarely recognize the names of Peter B. and Mary Dyck.

   And really the question is often larger than just who my parents are. What people want to know is whether they know any of my relatives. The fact that Mr. Gerhard G. Kornelsen, a former educator and Watkins sales representative in Steinbach, was married to my grandfather’s sister, Annie P. Dyck, might be interesting to some. This means that Mary, Bill and Ernie Kornelsen were my father’s cousins. Or they might be interested to know that my maternal grandparents, Abram F. and Helena Klassen, each came to the Grunthal area as children in the late 1800s, grew up there, and then moved to the Hordean area in the former West Reserve after they were married. It seems that the knowledge of who one’s relatives are begins to create an identity in the mind of the inquirer. In other words, people want to learn something about me through my ancestry. Or maybe they just enjoy genealogical research.

   This common exercise is often referred to as “the Mennonite game, ”although I doubt that it is uniquely Mennonite. I’m pretty sure that people from other ethnic groups make similar inquiries of people whom they would like to get to know better.

   At Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) it is quite acceptable to inquire about one’s ancestry, because many of the people one encounters here are interested in things historical. Such people know that there are many fascinating stories in our ancestors’ lives, stories that in many cases have shaped us into the people we are today.

   For a number of years, MHV regularly hosted a Roots and Family History Day each April. This was an event where people who have pursued family-history research in a significant way could set up a table with their research materials and findings at hand and be available to talk with others who might be considering or already engaging in a similar project. Ideas, methodology, records and resources could be shared, often to mutual benefit.

   When that annual event was eventually phased out, a Family History Centre was created as a regular feature at each of our festival events.  Our Family History Centre is staffed by several volunteers who have considerable experience in doing genealogical research and are adept at using the GRANDMA (Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) program. The latest version of this database contains more than one million Russian Mennonite names and includes tools to determine how individuals are related to one another. Our Family History Centre staff enjoy asking if you want to know how you are related to a Mennonite celebrity like Jonathan Toews, James Reimer, Fred Penner or others.

   One of our volunteers started using the program on his home computer recently and now researches the ancestry of many of the people he meets. For him, it’s an enjoyable way to spend leisure time. But for others, the significant part of the exercise is to discover who one’s ancestors are, where they came from, where they lived, and perhaps even where they are buried. Who were those relatives from a century or more ago? What factors may have affected their lives and shaped who they became? Who are the other people whose lives might have been affected by these same ancestors? What do we have in common with those people today?

   This intriguing database can be found at grandmaonline.org or on a disc that can be purchased at Village Books and Gifts. We have volunteers who are quite willing to help people get started on the program. Other online ancestry databases are available as well. If you’re getting bored with sitcoms or Solitaire, perhaps genealogy would be a beneficial new hobby for you to explore.

Calendar of Events

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 PM

- September 30: Last day of operations for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the outdoor village.

Village News

Volunteerism

   Our Education Program’s summer staff members, Jaycia Koop and Nia Rogers, have completed their work at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) for the 2016 season. Both are students so are back at school. They served MHV very capably and adapted well to our team and our environment.

   Their work was demanding and sometimes quite intense. It was their responsibility to design the various elements of our Education Program, both for school tours and for our Pioneer Day-Camps. Virtually every day during May and June they were recruiting the volunteers needed to deliver the program. Additionally, they recruited most of the volunteers needed for our six summer festival days.

   Their individual end-of-season reports discuss various aspects of the completed programs, including concerns arising from their observations and experiences throughout the summer. The concern that is noted most frequently is our critical need for an ongoing supply of new volunteers. Our pool of volunteers is constantly changing as new people come onboard and existing volunteers phase out. Those who leave us do so for a variety of reasons: relocation to another community, involvement with a different charity, failing health or energy, loss of interest, etc. These are largely factors that we have no control over.

   Similarly, the new volunteers who join our team do so for a variety of reasons. Some come because they have recently retired and need a new way to contribute to their community. Others come because they have just moved into our community, and volunteering is something they do wherever they live. Many come because a current volunteer or staff member has encouraged them to give it a try. While we were pleased to again add some new volunteers to our team this year, the reports from our Education Program staff indicate that we lost more volunteers than we gained. This is quite concerning, to say the least.

   We recognize that this past summer had some unique elements to it which made our volunteer recruitment more challenging than usual. The Manitoba Summer Games, a great event in and for our community, required a large number of helpers and needed to do their recruitment at the same time that we were recruiting for Pioneer Days. A common response we heard was that Pioneer Days is here every year, but the Summer Games are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which is true and an understandable perspective.

   The Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin always holds its annual Reunion on the last weekend of July. Pioneer Days always takes place on the first weekend of August. Every few years these two festivals actually end up happening on the same weekend, as was the case this year. Additionally this was a very special year for Austin’s museum, as they would be attempting to set a new Guinness World Record for number of threshing machines operating at one time. While this was certainly an admirable venture, it did create some unanticipated challenges for our volunteer recruiters.

   Our volunteer pool is a mixture of demographic groups, particularly on festival days. We are happy to have youth, retired people and even career people on our team for those days. For weekday activities, such as school tours, we need to rely on volunteers who do not have careers. These are mostly retired people and some home-schooled students. We are grateful for these willing people and they do great work. But the supply is seriously limited.

   Volunteer supply is a challenge for most museums and for many other charities whose operations depend on significant numbers of volunteer helpers. Volunteers will most likely join an organization where they are given engaging work in a pleasant work environment. And perhaps most importantly, these people need to see that what they do is significant to the wellbeing of their community and to the cause being supported by that organization.

   We are pleased that the Hanover School Division has developed a program where students can get credit for volunteering a certain number of hours in the community. MHV usually receives one or two of these student volunteers each summer.

   It is commendable that so many people in this community see value in volunteering. The efforts of our current volunteers to actively recruit others to join them at MHV are significant. And we deeply appreciate the ongoing support of the many volunteers who respond to our calls for help again and again.

   Everyone who has volunteered at MHV this year in any capacity is invited to our annual Volunteer Appreciation event on September 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the Village Centre Auditorium.

Calendar of Events

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 PM

Village News

Fall on the Farm

   The last “festival” event of our 2016 season has now taken place at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). After our Canada Day celebrations, then Pioneer Days on the August long weekend, Fall on the Farm has once again completed our trio of annual MHV festivals. We still have a number of other events on our calendar, but this brings to a close the high-intensity preparations and volunteer recruitment that are part of every MHV festival season. Now it’s time to focus on planning next year’s festivals.

   Despite heavy rain this past Sunday and a somewhat uncertain forecast for Monday, we were pleased to see how many people chose to spend their Labour Day holiday with us. We wondered if perhaps Sunday’s rain brought some people home early from their cottages and campgrounds, allowing them to participate in our Fall on the Farm festivities.

   Once again the village was teaming with small children, who found great pleasure in the face painting, barrel-train rides, horse-drawn wagon rides, inflatable play structures, petting zoo, pony rides and other children’s activities. As usual, Mr. Ken made an appearance on our main stage under the tent with his latest family magic-and-comedy show. This popular entertainer has become quite a hit with many children and their parents.

   The main stage also featured two other bands: Hollis Brown entertained us with a set of Blue-Grass and Folk music, and 5 Acres provided both classic and contemporary Country music. While our tent is a wonderful venue for these slightly informal concerts, we are looking forward to having our new Summer Pavilion in place for our 2017 season. While many people sit inside the tent to enjoy to the performances, many are also able to listen from the picnic area just outside the tent. Our new Pavilion is intended to replicate that type of open environment.

   The local Steam Club worked hard to catch up on the threshing that didn’t get done during Pioneer Days. They processed four loads of sheaves, which yielded almost two wagon-loads of grain and a large pile of straw. Our animals will be well fed again next summer. Because the steamer was needed for the threshing machine, the sawmill operators enlisted a gas-powered tractor to operate the sawmill.

   One of the unique and most-popular features of this fall festival is the butchering demonstrations. Hog and chicken butchering were both carried out, as these were common fall activities on many farms. It’s quite remarkable how many people gather round to observe. MHV volunteers also made butter with an old-fashioned churn, baked bread in an out-door clay oven, quilted, made dill pickles and provided various other demonstrations.

   Food is always an important element in each of our festival events. The Livery Barn Restaurant serves the ethnic Russian Mennonite dishes like Vereniki, Cabbage Borscht, Farmer Sausage, Rhubarb Plautz and various other tasty dishes. The MHV Auxiliary faithfully bakes their famous waffles and serves them with vanilla sauce. During the fall festival, they also serve fresh deep-fried apple fritters in place of watermelon and Rollkuchen. The other unique food item that makes an appearance at Fall on the Farm is corn on the cob. Freshly cooked and rolled in butter, it’s a nice snack.

   Although our festival season has now come to an end, there are a few other events still on tap at MHV in 2016. On September 18 we will again offer Supper from the Field. This is a dinner highlighting locally grown items, presented in conjunction with Open Farm Day, an annual event sponsored by the Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies. And on September 22 we will be celebrating our many volunteers with a Volunteer Appreciation evening. In addition to these events, the MHV Auxiliary will be hosting a dinner on September 29, with The Right Honorable Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, as our special guest. So we will continue to see a lot of activity at MHV for the next few weeks.

   Today someone asked me why a festival like Fall on the Farm is important. In addition to the fact that it helps us remember and learn from the history that got us to where we are today, it also provides a gathering place for the community. We get together to celebrate, to eat good food, to enjoy one another’s company and to build community. The festivals at MHV contribute to the health of our community.

Calendar of Events

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Signature Museums

   This week a couple of my online news feeds informed me that the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre has been appointed to the province’s Signature Museums Program. This program, administered by the Historic Resources Branch of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection, “assists selected museums that showcase special collections related to Manitoba’s unique historical development, and that have the potential to be significantly enhanced heritage attractions.”

   With this appointment, there are now seven Signature Museums in our province. The other six are the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, the Manitoba Agriculture Museum in Austin, the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, the Saint-Boniface Museum in Winnipeg and the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, also in Winnipeg. Each museum collaborates with the Historic Resources Branch to develop programing that is then supported with funding from the department.

   The Signature Museums Program focuses on five key result areas: the sustainability/visibility of the museum, the accessibility and quality of its programs, the museum’s stewardship practices with respect to its collection, the economic partnerships within its community, and the involvement of the community in supporting the museum’s operations. Goals and objectives are established in each of these areas, and funding is provided each calendar quarter. Capital projects are not eligible for funding under this program.

   This is a beneficial program for a museum to participate in, as it directs focus into areas that are significant to the growth and development of an institution. Expertise in museum operations is also provided as part of the package. We value the opportunity to consult with these knowledgeable resource people.

   We also value our collaboration with the other Signature Museums. Representatives from each usually meet together several times annually, sometimes just to share ideas and experiences and sometimes to strategize about joint marketing endeavours under the Signature Museums name.

   The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre will be a good addition to our group. It has demonstrated creativity and assertiveness in promoting its programs to the public. One of its feature activities is a Fossil Dig Adventure Tour, where the participant has the opportunity to dig for fossils on one of their sites in the region. This is the kind of “experiential tourism” that many people are looking for today.

   As is the case with the other Signature Museums, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre will challenge each of us to explore new opportunities that will help keep our museums alive and vital in a very lively and exciting tourism market. To be sure, healthy museums also bring positive influences to the communities in which they are located.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

VN 2016 08 25 model

   This summer we were pleased to accept into our collection three models built by Harold Fast. About thirty years ago, he made models of the houses his maternal grandparents and his wife's paternal grandparents built around Gruenfeld, Manitoba (now Kleefeld), as well as a model of an ice slide built on the Gruenfeld school yard for several winters.

   Gruenfeld was the first Mennonite village established after the 1874 migration from Russia to Canada. It was settled by families from the Kleine Gemeinde (now Evangelical Mennonite Conference), the same group that founded Steinbach. Both Harold's family and his wife Nettie's family were among the original settlers of the town.

   Harold's great-grandparents, Jacob L. (1839-1893) and Maria (Rempel) Dueck (1840-1917) came to Canada in 1875 with one of the first waves of Mennonite emigrants from Russia. They settled in Gruenfeld, where Jacob’s father, sister, and brothers were already living. Jacob and Maria built the Schein, or barn annex used as storage (not pictured), on their lot in the village in 1886 and built the barn in 1898. When the Duecks' son Heinrich (1873-1944) and his wife Katharina (Reimer) Dueck (1878-1921) purchased their own rural property in 1907, they left his parents' house in the village but moved the Schein and the barn onto their new property. They built a new house and attached it by way of a summer kitchen to the relocated outbuildings to make a housebarn - a traditional Mennonite dwelling, two examples of which can be found at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV).

   One thing that intrigued us about the model of the Fast homestead was its mixture of traditional Mennonite architecture and more modern architecture. Judging by the model, the new house had a traditional layout at first, but over the years Heinrich and Katharina built two additional stories and a porch on the front, eventually making it a far more "modern" design.

   Heinrich and Katharina’s daughter Elisabeth (1904-1976) and her husband George Fast (1901-1993) bought the housebarn after Heinrich's death in 1944. They moved in there with their six children, Harold included. Harold didn't live there for long, as he got married four or five years after moving there, but he still remembers the house well. By the time the Fasts moved in, there was modern plumbing and mostly-modern heating; Harold still remembers shoveling wood into the furnace.

   This was the last housebarn built in the Gruenfeld area. George and Elisabeth lived there until Elisabeth's death in 1976. George remarried a year or two later and moved out in 1978. The house is still standing and is still owned by this family. 

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Along the Road to Freedom

   On August 9 we celebrated the opening of our latest exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery. Along the Road to Freedom is a collection of 26 paintings created by artist Ray Dirks, who is also the Curator at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg. This exhibit is on loan to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and will occupy our temporary gallery till October 12, 2016.

   In 2008 a group of four people approached Alf Redekopp, then- director of the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg, and Ray Dirks with a vision to preserve the stories of Mennonite women who brought their families out of Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and during World War II. In most cases the husbands of these women had been killed or taken from their families in horrific ways. Alf and Ray accepted the challenge, and the project began. And now, eight years later, the completed exhibit has arrived at MHV.

   On opening night, MHV Curator Andrea Dyck created the context in which these stories took place by providing an overview of the conditions Mennonites faced in the Soviet Union during the Russian Revolution and World War II. Eckhard Goerz read a poetic narrative of his family’s experiences during this time. Ray Dirks talked about the process of collecting these stories and turning them into works of art.

   To remind us that the plight of refugees is still very real and current, Pastor Shadrach Mutabazi, attending with his wife Miriam and two daughters, talked about the family’s experiences as refugees from Congo.

   Pastor Shadrach’s stories and those of the women depicted in the paintings are moving and often horrific. Those of us who have not lived through such experiences can only be grateful that we have been spared.

   Many Russian Mennonite refugees journeyed for years before reaching Canada or Paraguay, where they were finally able to settle and create a new home. Family members sometimes became ill and died along the way. Anna Goosen Giesbrecht, grandmother of Wanda Andres, lost her husband and her son in the Soviet Union and led her remaining six children to freedom in Canada over a period of years. In an act of desperation, she eventually sold her wedding ring in order to purchase food for her family.

   It is remarkable how so many of these people held onto their faith in a loving God throughout their extremely difficult experiences. One can’t help but ask the question, “How would my own faith come through similar circumstances?”

   The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that globally 65.3 million people are currently displaced from their homes. Of these, 21.3 million have fled the country in which they were living and are now refugees. Many Canadians are once again responding to this crisis with generosity, as has been the case in the past.

   Along the Road to Freedom is a moving exhibit, to say the least, especially for the four individuals whose vision led to its creation-- Wanda Andres, Henry Bergen, Nettie Dueck, and Hans Funk. All four were able to attend the exhibit opening on August 9.

   The Gerhard Ens Gallery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the end of August, and then to 5 p.m. through September and October.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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