Some artifacts weigh very heavily in my hands, despite being made of cotton and leather. Gerda Klassen recently donated several articles of clothing, including a white cotton vest, long blue skirt, and handmade leather slippers belonging to her great-grandparents, David and Katharina Dick. According to the family’s stories, the couple were wearing them the day they were killed by Russian anarchists in 1919.
Like many Mennonites in Russia, David and Katharina Dick were prosperous and owned a great estate called Apanlee in Molotschna Colony. They lived there peacefully with their children and grandchildren. After the Russian revolution of 1917 and subsequent civil war, anarchists led by Nestor Makhno emerged from the chaos and spread ruin across South Russia. On October 30, 1919, they came to Apanlee. All day, groups of bandits came and went, raiding the house and taking everything they could carry.
At about 11:00 p.m. a carriage with five men pulled up before the house. The group burst into the building and lined up father David, mother Katharina, brothers Jacob and Johann, and employee Mr. Schellenberg against a wall. Other family members and servants hid in the bushes outside. The leader of the intruders demanded fifty thousand rubles. David told him that all their money had already been taken. He asked for permission to go to the other employees on the farm, sure that he could borrow that amount from them. The request was refused. David was shot and fell to the floor, gravely wounded, and he pretended to be dead. Mr. Schellenberg jumped out a window. John threw himself on the bed, waiting for the bullet. When David whispered to him, “Save yourself!” John also leaped out the window. Jake was able to escape through a door. Katharina tried to escape too but was shot twice, her head shattered by explosive bullets. David died from his wounds a day later. In the final hours a choir from Aleksanderkrone came to sing comforting songs.
David and Katharina’s son, David D. Dick, was serving in a military hospital, a conscript of the White (Imperial) Army. It was not until he returned home two weeks later that he learned of his parents’ deaths.
Siblings Anna, Lydia, and Johann were all lost in Russia. Marie, Jacob, Katharina, Justina, David D., Else, Luise, and Helene were able to escape and immigrated to Canada with their families in 1924.
We are honoured to preserve these artifacts and their story at Mennonite Heritage Village.
Calendar of Events
- July 1 – Canada Day - FREE ADMISSION (10:00-6:00)
- July 13-17 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8
- July 31-August 3 – Pioneer Days (10:00–6:00 daily)
- August 10-14 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12