Mar 14, 2018

Gramma Stories ~ Along the Road to Freedom

How exciting to have an art exhibit come to town featuring Mennonite women from Russia who made their way to Canada under impossible circumstances! The exhibit is at the Ambrose University in Calgary and will be there for another few weeks. There was a reception at the opening of the exhibit in early March and the artist Ray Dirks was present to give background for his reasons for creating the paintings. This reception also included a choir and a story from Hugo Neufeld who had a direct connection to one of the paintings. (see below)
Two weeks later a group of 21 women came from various Mennonite churches in the Calgary area to view the exhibit. The event was billed as "Gramma Stories". There were presentations from four women. Jeanette Thiessen told the story of Grandma Baerg who endured many hardships. When they arrived in Quebec after an uncomfortable trip they were surprised by offerings of sandwiches, cake, and the Gospel of John!

Rose Klassen passed on the story of her Grandma Retzlaff who lost many members of her immediate family, including two infant daughters, during her escape from the Red Army. Two Chin ladies Tial Mawi and Hnin Tida, dressed in their cultural outfits told us about their modern day trek from the jungles of Burma to Calgary. They repeatedly said how their faith and determination got them to the beautiful country of Canada. The Chin congregation joined Mennonite Church Alberta in 2013.

There were other spontaneous stories that included a beautiful pill box and a hand sized manicure set that served the entire Mennonite community in a Siberian camp. Alice Unrau shared her experiences of her involvement in the Mennonite Historical Society. She urged us to get involved and attend a conference being in Edmonton this November.

The afternoon also included an urban “faspa” that lacked zwiebach or kringle but the tasty lunch was enjoyed by all!

~ Kate Janzen
(Kate is a member of Foothills Mennonite Church, Calgary, and is the Mennonite Women Alberta Rep on the Mennonite Women Canada executive.)

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