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October 13 , 2009

The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History


Prussian Mennoite pioneers who settled southern Russsia at the invitation of Catherine the Great in the early 19th Century, came for religious freedom and for land.  One hundred years later at the fall of Tsarist Russia, these Russian Mennonites had becme wealthy landowners, some of whom valued their land possessions more than they did their religious beliefs.

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Schoenfeld, a Mennonite region of south Russia, was known for its concentration of wealth spread across a small number of estates whose Mennonite owners had accumulated huge acreages of land.  Their lifestyles and material possessions were the envy of many.  All their wealth and privilege was shattered during the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war.  Schoenfeld was wiped off the map and its residents, fleeing for their lives, became refugees in the larger Mennoite Colonies.  In 1925, the author's penniless refugee grandparents immigrated to Canada to build new lives in a strange land.  They were part of some twenty thousand Russian Mennonites, known as Russlaender, who left Russia for Canada between 1923 and 1929.

The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History is a story of Mennonite lives lived in Russia.  Their history is dotted with tragedies and triumphs, despair and hope, kindness,cruelty, wealth, poverty and noble conduct contrasted with shameful behavour.  Above all, it is a story of courage, faith and perseverance.


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