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Ken Petkau, of Waldheim, Saskatchewan, has always had an interest in history, all the way back to his public school days. But about twelve years ago, he realized that the family members who had gone through the Russian revolution and the civil war, and which had come to Canada, were passing away one by one. He was also getting older. He determined that their future generations should know who their ancestors were, and why they had relocated from Royal (West) Prussia to Russia, and then again, from Soviet Russia to Canada.
Ken discovered that other family members had recorded voice interviews with some of the already deceased aunt and uncles, and they made the transcripts available to him.
Furthermore, Ken had a number of European, Russian and Mennonite history books in his personal library, so he had access to a considerable cross-section of reference material for his research.
First Books by Petkau
In 2002 Ken Petkau wrote his first book, Search For a Peaceful Land about his paternal Petkau family, with a genealogy, but no index.
Later he wrote Lost Dreams, New Beginnings, which has a similar format, but is about about the Lepp family history on his wife Rita's paternal side. It includes some thoughts on the first Mennonite migration to Russia, and has chapters about the Lepp family name and origin, and some history of the Chortiza region. The Lepp family built a new home in Imperial Russia, then relocated to the Orenburg Colony. They experienced the revolution, and survived the civil war. Then they left Russia and experienced new beginnings in Canada.
This book includes some historical documents and letters, a genealogy and an index.
The Way to the Heavenly Home
More recently, (2012), Ken has translated Der Weg zur Heimat (The Way to the Heavenly Home), by his cousin. Abram Teichrib, only son of Abram and Liese Teichrib wrote his mother's story in German.
Liese's father, David David Petkau, was one of the Mennonite Brethern pastors in Orenburg colony, who was branded a Kulak and enemy of the people for being a successful farmer and a Christian. He was sent to various labour camps near the White Sea and in the eastern Ural Mountains. Eventually he died from overwork and malnutrition.
Liese's husband, Abram Teichrib, was a twenty-six year old teacher, and was arrested in 1937 and never heard from again.
Her father-in-law, many of her brothers and brothers-in-law were also sent to labour camps. Most of them never returned.
Liese never remarried and was left alone with one son, whom she raised. He eventually wrote this biography of her life and times, and also the short remincings of three of her sisters.
Teichrib put into this book, The Way to the Heavenly Home, her memories of the establishment of the Orenburg colony, the early years of the colony's growth, the revolution, the years of her family's travail under the Soviet government, the Second World War, her experiences druing the trek to Poland in 1943/44, and subsequent return to a Siberian labour camp in 1945, and eventually, her return to the former Orenburg colony in 1947.
In 1989, Liese, her son Abram, and his children and their families all immigrated to Germany. There she passed away in 1997.
For those who would like to get a sense of the life of Mennonites in the Orenburg Colony, near the city of Orenburg, in the Ural Mountain foothills, will find that this book spirits them right into that era and gives them a strong taste of the painful emotions that were common then.
A number of Leise's Petkau relatives came to Canada, and it is especially for their benefit that Ken Petkau translated this book, but of course others are welcome to order it as well. The in-store price is $25, but a check for $30 will cover shipping or postage costs. Address your request to;
Currently, Ken Petkau is working on his wife's maternal Penner side. This family left the Arkadak Colony, and some were able to come to Canada, but some had to go to Paraguay.
He would like to write a similar book about his mother's Falk family, who came to Canada from the Schlachtin Colony.
There is another of his cousin, Abram Teichrib's books that he would like to translate. That book focuses on the village of Alexanderwohl, Molotschna Colony, and tells some of it's history, the second World War period, the Teichrib history, as well as some of the other former inhabitants in the village. Plus a return visit to the village in 2003.
Ken says, "This is assuming I am given the time to complete these projects."
(We do not post emails on the website, but you may use our contact form to have your email forwarded to Ken.)
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Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS)
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