The third and final leg of the Memories of Migration Russlaender train tour is underway, and working its way through Alberta right now. The trek is part of the 100th anniversary events happening throughout July across the country recognizing the start of the migration in 1923 of more than 21,000 Russian Mennonites from the Soviet Union to Canada.
Steinbach's Erin Unger, along with her husband, are riding the rails to the end point of Abbotsford B.C. Unger's Mennonite heritage stems from the migration from Ukraine to Canada, and it's through her husband she's connected to what's now known as the Russlaender.
"My husband is half Russlaender, and these are people that have affected every part of our lives for those of us that at least live in Southern Manitoba," said Unger while travelling on a bus to Edmonton as part of the journey. "It's a compelling story. There are so many stories, and I just wanted to be here for all of it, as we're on the ground experiencing it all together."
Unger noted the concept of identity, who we are and where we come from prompted her to participate in this once in a lifetime centenary event.
"I think that heritage and identity is really so important," she said. "Our history plays into that. Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here? They're all quite existential questions, but they have practical implications every day."
The third leg of the tour includes stops at the Bergthal Mennonite Church in Didsbury, AB, Evergreen Farms in Linden to learn about Mennonite/Holdeman history and then off to Abbotsford, B.C. to tour a variety of places including visit Yarrow, Greendale and Arnold, the three earliest Mennonite settlements in the Fraser Valley.
"I'm very fascinated by B.C.," said Unger. "I'm going to be really looking forward to the three Russian Mennonite villages that were established by the Russlaender, the lake that was drained for them, and then we will go to a First Nation and learn about the impact there. So just seeing all the the pieces of what this migration meant for for all people."
You can listen to Morning Show Co-Host Chris Sumner's conversation with Erin, below