It's not very often that one has the opportunity to celebrate the 225th anniversary of anything. Historians in southern Manitoba took full advantage of such a commemoration last weekend. Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein, board member of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), and Korey Dyck, Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Centre, joined forces to plan and deliver a conference specifically to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the first migration of Mennonites from Prussia (present-day Poland) to Russia.
Saturday's program took place at the Mennonite Heritage Centre on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University. Approximately 80 people crowded into their gallery for a number of presentations.
The morning session offered two lectures dealing with life in Poland and the emigration from Poland. The afternoon session included a keynote address by Dr. Mark Jantzen from Bethel College in Kansas, as well as three additional presentations. Jantzen addressed the topic From Poland to Prussia to Russia: Mennonite Emigration Out of the Vistula Delta.
The conference resumed with a celebratory session on Sunday evening here at Mennonite Heritage Village. Approximately 100 people attended this session.
The Carillon Singers opened the evening with several hymns that have been very popular among Mennonites in the past.
Len Loeppky then delivered a slide presentation from a number of his trips to Poland and present-day Ukraine. He visited many of the villages formerly occupied by Mennonites and explored their cemeteries. Today Poland does not have a Mennonite population, but the government is currently funding the construction and preservation of specific buildings to conserve Mennonite History.
Mennonite Heritage Village tells the stories of these Prussian Mennonites, particularly their experiences after coming to Canada beginning in 1874. Barry Dyck offered a brief report on various key initiatives the museum has taken in the past to preserve these stories and also shared some personal visions of how the interpretive work of the museum might continue in the future.
To wrap up the evening, the MHV Auxiliary served coffee and a snack, which created a great forum for visiting and sharing more ideas and stories.
We are gratified to see such a strong level of interest in this kind of event. It assures us that our work here at MHV is valued by many and will also help us in structuring future programming.
Lawrence Klippenstein and Korey Dyck did a fine job of creating a program that was of interest to many people. We appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with the Mennonite Heritage Centre and have witnessed again the level of synergy that can result from such a partnership.