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Michael Ignatieff and Mennonite history converge

   
 
   

May 8, 2009
- Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man. - A link between the family of Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and the history of Russian Mennonites has been recovered from the dusty shelves of history.

In January, 2009, John B. Giesbrecht from Vineland, Ont., visited the Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) noting that the Ignatieff family name sounded similar to the name of the 1880s Russian Mennonite settlement, Ignatyevo.

Alf Redekopp, MHC Director, undertook some research and indeed found that in 1888 the Chortitza Colony bought 15,470 hectares of land from the Countess Ignatieff. Many of the landless families from Chortitza settled in Ignatyevo, founding seven villages. In popular speech the villages were often simply known by their numbers. Redekopp’s father grew up in “Number 2”, which was actually called Romanowka.

Michael Ignatieff (b. 1947) is the son of George Ignatieff (1913-1989), who was a Russian-Canadian diplomat. His great-grandmother, Catherine Leonidovna Galitzine (widow of Nicolai Paul Ignatieff, 1832-1886) was the countess from which the Mennonite settlement lands were purchased.

In an April 25 CBC radio interview with Shelagh Rogers, Ignatieff speaks about his family history. His mother’s side, the Grant family, has a long history of service to country. Ignatieff mentions his Uncle George Grant – for a time a pacifist and conscientious objector in London during World War II, and author of Lament for a Nation (1965). Michael Ignatieff’s great-grandfather George Monro Grant, was a Presbyterian minister.

Some of the participants in the Mennonite Heritage Cruise (Sept. 29 – Oct. 15, 2009) are planning a trip to Ignatyevo. Details at http://home.ica.net/~walterunger/ or 416-925-9461.