Stories are part of our identity; they keep alive our past and connect to the present and future.
Stories connect us as people, teach us respect for heritage, and help us understand and preserve history.
Collection of Immigration Stories
Saskatchewan is shaped by many stories that make up the cultural diversity and history of this province. Enjoy reading life stories and adventures of German-Canadian families and individuals: descendants of ethnic German families who emigrated from Germany as well as other places in Europe, including Hutterites, and Mennonites, who ultimately made Saskatchewan their home.
Anna Maria Gebhardt (1878-1979)
by Mary Schneider, daughter, published with permission by Rosa & Earl Gebhardt, Saskatoon.
Anna Maria was born on November 29, 1878, in Galicia, former Habsburg Empire. The forefathers of Anna Maria and her husband Johann Gebhardt migrated with many fellow German Lutherans from Alsace-Lorraine, Rhineland, Baden-Württemberg and Switzerland in the latter half of the1700s to form new colonies in Russia per invitation of Empress Catherine II. Her proclamation promised free land, a farmhouse, freedom of religion, and more. Read the full story.
Erika’s Diary: A Personal History of Flight and Safety
by Dr. Patricia (Trish) Spindel, introduction by Mervin Weiss.
Recently I found my mother Erika’s diary. It was written in 1945 when she was 18 years old, but it describes her life in 1939 at age 11 which is when, as she put it, her childhood ended. She was born Austrian in Bodenbach, a town in what became known later as the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia. It was annexed by Germany in 1939. Her father, a Bürgermeister (senior official) on the railroad, was a Social Democrat, which made him a target, especially in light of his support of the resistance against Nazi Germany.
Erika’s diary gives the reader an inside look at the turmoils which lead to her family’s flight from Europe and at the challenges of an unfamiliar agricultural way of life in Saskatchewan. Read the full story.
My Father’s Immigration Story
by Arlene Fedorchuk
Arlene recounts the story of her father, Karl Friedrich Seemann, born on August 12, 1930 in Großsoltholz, Germany making his way to Canada. During WWII, an older friend from Karl’s village had been recruited by the Nazis. He was captured and eventually sent to a POW camp in Taber, Alberta. When the war was over, the POW’s were released and were left either to make the long back home to Germany or stay in Canada. Sigi stayed and encouraged Karl, along with other young men to come to the land of opportunity. After seeing recruitment flyers for Canada needing more lumberjacks, Karl made the decision in 1952 to board the M.S. Columbia in Bremerhaven for Halifax, N.S. Read the full story.
Immigration Story: Andrew and Ida Grzesina
recounted by Andrew and Ida Grzesina, written by Mervin Weiss.
One immigration story starts in Romania, the other in Ukraine but both end in Regina, Saskatchewan. Andrew and Ida’s families succeeded all odds, having left their home countries out of necessity to cross paths in a far away place to start a life together. Both families have a very similar immigration story of having left Europe for a better life, after being displaced by the turmoil of World War II. Read the full story.
Helmut and Ida Tischler’s Journey to Canada
written by Kurt Tischler
The Tischler Family immigration story has its beginnings in the southwest of Germany. The family, Helmut and Ida, and their three boys are separated through war but find each other again through the help of the Red Cross. After the family’s reunification, Helmut had his sights set on returning home, however he was left with disappointment and to protect their sons it became clear that the family had to make the trek to Canada. The journey was difficult and starting a new life in a strange land made them question their decisions. Read the full story.
The Story of Wilhelm and Wanda Schwentke
story collection by Otto Schwentke, foreword by Mervin Weiss.
Born into German families in Poland, Wilhelm and Wanda faced many hardships from being forced to re-locate from their home to barely surviving the trip back home in cattle cars. After Wilhelm’s impulsive decision to emigrate to Canada in 1929, the entire Schwentke family arrived in Canada just as a worldwide recession was taking hold in 1930, and in Saskatchewan just as a crippling drought would devastate agricultural production for several years. The following stories are transcriptions of an audio tape recorded by Otto Schwentke from about 1985, that address his grandson. Read the full story.
We Found a Home in Canada
recounted by Adele Wagner, written by Mervin Weiss.
Adele’s story is one of love, hope, perseverance and persistence. Her story starts in the after-math of the Holodomor, the man-made famine that saw millions die due to starvation in Ukraine and continues with her and her brother’s journey to Canada. After many ups and down, both finally feeling like a family again when they reunite with their mother in Regina, after being ripped apart 16 years prior. Read the full story.
The Story of Klara Rosa Zeiler
written by Gary Zeiler, edited by Mervin Weiss.
Klara was one of 6 children born to Franz Görigk and Rosa Hasselberg in Linglack Ostpreußen; she had 4 brothers, two older (Benno and Leo) two younger (Bruno and Alfons) and one older sister (Erna). They were a German farming family but also had relatives in the nearby community of Paulsen, where they went to church and were baptized. They all lived in the same large house with surrounding farm and most travel was done via bicycle or horse and buggy, which is also how most of the farm goods were transported to other communities for sale or trade. Read the full story.
The Story of Markus and Ulrike Hecker
told by Ulrike and Markus.
Markus and Uli Hecker have fully embraced their lives here in Saskatchewan, and at the moment, cannot imagine living anywhere else! Of course, they have not always lived in Saskatchewan, having emigrated from Germany, and spending a few years in Michigan before arriving in Saskatoon in 2007. Read the full story.
The Story of John Michael Uhrich (1877-1951)
Told by Mervin Weiss
Did you know that Saskatchewan’s ninth Lieutenant Governor was an Ontario-born German? Saskatchewan introduced Canada’s first universal and comprehensive health care program in 1962, but did you know this same Ontario-born German laid the foundation for this program already in the 1920s.
The Story of Andrea MacLeod
Told by Mervin Weiss
Andrea MacLeod is a busy mom, wife and co-homemaker with her husband Andrew, and a busy volunteer. She juggles all of that with a full-time job. But she graciously agreed to a video interview to tell SGC members her story.
Gregor and Ilona Beck
Told by Mervin Weiss
Gregor and Ilona Beck, hailing from German families with strong ties to agricultural-related businesses, immigrated to Saskatchewan, bringing with them a wealth of experience and expertise, making them an ideal fit for Saskatchewan.
If you would like to share your own story here, get in touch with us!