MHSS Mennonite Historical Societty of Saskatchewan
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1918 Story relating to the Mochna Gang in Ukraine

On November 11, 1918, three bandits from the Mochna gang rode into Ignatowka (Ignatyevo). This was a Mennonite settlement in south Russia. It was the home of Heinrich Kornelius Penner and his wife Aganetha (Teichroeb) Penner.

Heinrich Penner owned the local flour mill. This meant that he was quite well off financially. He was very well liked by his neighbors despite his wealth, and one of them, Peter Suderman, was alarmed when saw the bandits ride up to the Penner home. He hid nearby and spied on them as best he could.

One of the bandits stayed outside brandishing his rifle with bayonet attached. The second walked into the small creamery by the barn and began to drink the cream from the separator. The third entered the home and demanded gold from Heinrich. To back his demands he jabbed at Aganetha's neck with the bayonet. Heinrich used to hide gold in the attic between the conjoined barn and house. He went and fetched some.

The bandit demanded more, and jabbed at Aganetha's neck some more. He must have got carried away with anger or blood lust because he began to plunge the bayonet quite deeply. He also chased their two youngest sons (Dietrich and Nicolai) as they attempted escape. He caught up with them as they were hanging onto the balcony of a second story window. He jabbed at their fingers with the bayonet.

Heinrich eventually gave him enough gold to satisfy him, but by this time the damage was done. Aganetha's head was as good as severed from her body.

Peter Suderman saw most of this unfold through the windows. He and the other villagers were left feeling miserable and enraged. Some of them agreed with Heinrich for standing by his pacifist principles. Heinrich was a big man, and Peter thought he could have defended himself and his family if he had been willing to do so. Peter was also convinced that he refused purely out of religious conviction.

However, a few young men, Peter among them, did not share Heinrich's convictions. They kept talking about the matter, and somehow ended up getting a time from the local doctor. The doctor was a Jew from the neighboring village, and one can imagine that village had suffered as much from the bandits as Ignatowka. The doctor told the young Mennonite men that the Mochna gang would be holding an annual party soon; he knew when and where. He said they would drink until they passed out and then they would be vulnerable.

Peter and the others took a wagon to the site of the party. They had little trouble entering the place and soon enough they identified the three men they had seen at the Penner's. They got the men outside and tied them to the wagon by their feet. Off they went, dragging the men for quite some time, until they felt the men had suffered enough. Then they drove to an abandoned well and threw the bandits in. They covered them up with stones and left them.

Peter Suderman was 17 years old when these events took place. He passed away in Clearbrook, British Columbia and had related these eyewitness events to Ben C. Doell (Edmonton) before he died. The victim Aganetha was Ben Doell's maternal great-grandmother. While this is not a pleasant story, it is good to finally have an account related to Ben Doell by an eyewitness.

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Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS)
Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7K 7H8
(306)242-6105
Archive Hours: Monday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. & 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.