The Great Trek (p. 160)
When the retreating German army reached the Dnieper
they were joined by thousands of ethnic Germans whose ancestors had immigrated
to Russia more
than a century earlier. Among them were about 35,000 Mennonites. Most of them
were widows and children. When they finally reached Germany
many of them in accordance with the Yalta
agreement were repatriated to Russia.
They were sent to Karaganda, Novosibirsk
and other labour camps in Siberia. Only about 12,000
managed to get to the west. Of these 7,000 immigrated to Canada
and 5,000 to Paraguay.
The map shows the route that was taken by one of the several thousand families
that made the great trek.
Helen Loewen age 36 and her two children Henry age 12 and
Nettie age 7 lived in the village of Steinfeld
in the Schlachtin Baratov Colony. Her husband Heinrich H. Loewen had been
imprisoned in 1936. He died in Archangel a few years
later. Helen Loewen with her two children, her sister Elizabeth
Klassen with three children and Helena Friesen with four children agreed to
make this journey together. The group of eleven traveled on two wagons. They
had three horses (one spare) to pull one wagon and two oxen for the other.
They departed from their homes on October 23, 1943. When the exhausted refugees
reached the town of Khrasilov near Ternopol
they were allowed to board a train which took them to Litzmannstadt where they
spent some time in a refugee centre. They stayed for ten months in Zdunska Wola
where the women found employment in a factory. When the Russian front came
closer they continued their trek west and finally reached the town of Parchim.
They stayed there for six months. When the division of Germany
was finalized they found themselves in the Russian Zone. Miraculously the group
of eleven crossed the boarder into the British zone and finally came to
Braunschweig where they stayed for two years. Henry was now old enough to be
apprenticed to a brick layer. Finally relatives sponsored them to come to Canada.
After a short stay in another refugee camp in Diepholz they went to Southampton.
They boarded a ship and left for Canada
on February 5, 1948.