John was sketched by an artist* in 1948.
My uncle John Boleak (1925-2008) was a charming man who made everyone laugh. He also survived five years of captivity in Russia.
Johann H. Wiens and Anna Plett, 1913
When searching for my dad’s war buddy, Johann Wiens, I learned about another man with the same name who was my dad’s uncle. This Johann married my dad’s aunt Anna Plett, who sadly died before my father was born, but left descendants. Anna and Johann found peace with God when bandits raged in Russia.
Isaak Boleac and Hilda Balkon, about 1953, Vancouver
Isaak Boleac (1927-2007) was one of my father's three dear cousins, who were our only close relatives in Vancouver when I grew up. He left a genealogical treasure recently discovered by his daughter Esther Wolff. Isaak tells the story of an outsider being embraced by Russian Mennonites, then enduring through much upheaval.
Margaret and Peter at their wedding in 1990
Margaret Lammert (1921-1997) [#1340893] was my father’s second wife. He is now happily married to his third wife, Nola, but it’s good to take a few moments to remember those who have gone before us.
Maria Plett Wiens (1888-1980) #476149
My father told me the story of how his aunt Maria Plett survived a shooting that killed her husband, Peter Wiens, in post-war East Berlin.
Graewe family photo from 1927
As a child of immigrants, the only relatives we had nearby were the families of my dad’s three cousins, related on his maternal Graewe side. Now I’m discovering new connections through genealogy. What a surprise when I learned that Graewes began arriving in North America in the 1800s! Their story—our story—is shared below, along with where descendants can be found today.
Writer's grandson David Graves with wife Eva in 1995, Manitoba
A girl stabbing her father for alleged abuse; a serious cough sickening children; death by lightning … these are some of the stories shared by a long-lost relative that I discovered through his letters to the Mennonitische Rundschau from Alexanderpol in Russia’s Memrik Mennonite Settlement.
Heinrich Plett wrote to this historical Rundschau in 1882
I recently discovered some of my great-grandfather’s letters to a Mennonite publication and found them a fascinating window into a past from which most records were destroyed after families were uprooted. Then based in the U.S., the Mennonitische Rundschau was a lifeline for separated families and friends on different continents. The translated letters are shared below along with a short biography of Heinrich, information about his descendants, and photos.
In this story, I give tribute to a courageous woman who loved against all odds, as my father recounts some experiences with her in the 1930s Soviet Union.