By Jessica McKague

The Great Trek from Russia to Germany and eventually to North and South America during World War II and Stalin’s “Reign of Terror” was a dark chapter in the Mennonite story. Families were separated, many lost, and individuals had to choose carefully what they were to carry with them on their difficult journey to freedom.

Anna Duester (1907 – 2001) chose to bring her four song books or Liederperle. Anna purchased these song books in Russia and brought them along with her on the trek from Poland to Germany, and then again when she immigrated to Paraguay.

Anna was the choir director, and her books were used extensively in Paraguay as the only source of church music in her community. Songs were hand-copied so they could be used by all choir members. During World War II she lost most of her possessions but managed to save her most favoured books.

These four song books were recently donated to MHV by Erwin Duester and Anna Friesen. One of the song books will be on display in the upcoming exhibit A Growing Community Collection, 50 Years starting February 21, 2014.

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV. is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.