The Bench


About this time official word from government sources publicized the fact that Siberia was looking for farmers. New land was free and start-up costs would be forthcoming. Nicholai pondered this announcement and puzzled about his situation in Lindenau. His son John had already been sponsored by Mennonites and immigrated to the USA. Dietrich and Gerhard had immigrated to Canada. It was clear he could not stay in Lindenau. There might be a price on his head.

One day in the late 1920’s, Nicholai summoned his family together and announced that everything would be sold and they would be moving to Siberia. Elizabeth had lost her husband, William Martens, but had remarried Jacob Isaak. Peter and Nick had also died during these hard times. This left Jacob, Anna, Isaak, Cornelius, and Abraham. Cornelius elected to stay behind and shift on his own.

Thus Nicholai and his wife Helena, along with Elizabeth (and her husband Jacob Isaak), Jacob, Anna, Isaak and Abraham all put their movable goods together and set out towards the north. Their destination was an area already being pioneered by Mennonites, along the Amur River. Isaak has written something about this long trek and says that it was quite successful.

In their new location, the family immediately set about building a shelter for the upcoming winter. The first house was built of sod, because wood for houses and farm buildings had to be cut into planks from trees before construction. Since there were no saw mills in the area, buildings of wood had to wait for another season. In spring, a steady rain caused floods from the overflowing Amur which ruined their sod house. They had to start all over again. But eventually they persevered and things looked better. Farming even became a possibility.

However, the rumour was out that this was the Janzen family from Lindenau. Nicholai saw the distinct possibility that he would eventually be dragged into court, undoubtedly a kangaroo court, and put into jail. He began to consider an escape from Russia altogether.

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Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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