MHSS Mennonite Historical Societty of Saskatchewan
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old basket at the auction

A Piece of the Past

(by Sella Balzer)

Gerhard Wiensz, 1844 - 1931

The auctioneer held the basket up high -
"Hand made" he said as he started his cry.
"Give me a dollar, a dollar or two
for a basket of willows, two dollars will do."
The basket was sold for just what he asked
and the buyer ecstatic for a piece of the past.
To others the basket was dirty and old
made of just willows now black black as coal.
For the buyer the basket brought memories alive,
the basket was made in nineteen and twenty-five.
Twas made by the hands of a man now desceased,
Great-Grandfather Gerhard, asleep and now in peace.


Gerhard Wiensz was born, raised and married In Ufa, Russia. Widowed at the age of fifty years he continued to remain In Russia raising his family of nine children. Gerhard was continually intrigued by stories of Canada; therefore In 1924, at the age of eighty years, he made the decision to emigrate. Packing all his elongings into two suitcases, he set out to join his son, Pete Wiens, then living in Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, Canada.

While enroute to Moscow, a young boy, a stranger, offerer to carry his bags, Gerhard, pleased with the offer willingly handed over the heavy bags. The boy no sooner of them broke into a run; being no match for an eighty year old man it was a successful robbery.

Gerhard, left only with the clothes on his back, continued on to Moscow where his unfortunate experIence of earlier was quickly forgotten when in a train station in Moscow his eyes fell on a familiar face, the face of his son, Jacob.

Jacob, his wife Marie, their children Susie, Bill, George, Cornie, and John Wiens, Frank, Abe and Olga Janzen 'were emigrating from Millerowo, Russia aiso with the destination of Dalmeny. From this point on, Gerhard travelled with his son and his family safely to their homestead in Canada.

Once at his destination in Dalmeny, Gerhard resumed his hobby of whittling, carving and basket making. Not just any willow would do, the willows that be used to make baskets were carefully hand selected and inspected.

It is no wonder that when Esther Wiens, Dalmeny, happened to be at the auction sale of Albertina Sperling last fall, 1987, she was quick to offer a bid on the willow basket made by the hands of her hsuband, George's grandfather. The basket made in 1925 with Dalmeny grown willows, skillfully hand-crafted by a very special person, has to the Wiens' a value no one could ever measure in dollars and cents Truly a piece of the past!

4 generations of Wiens
Four generations - Cornie Wiens, Kathy Hnschuk, Sherry Shuya, with Shelby Shuya in the basket made by Gerhard Wiensz.
Great-grand-daughters of Gerhard Wiensz
Gerhard Wiensz' great great-granddaughter, Joleen Ross, Shalyn and Shelby Shuya in the basket.



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[Note: we apologize for the poor quality of the photocopied photos from the clipping. Better scans would be gratefully accepted].

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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.