Home » News » “Lucky to be Canadian” – a refugee’s son shares his story

“Lucky to be Canadian” – a refugee’s son shares his story

1959 With Father

1930s Brothers and Friends Reinland

Gerhard Ens Jr tells the story of his Ukrainian refugee father who moved to Canada in 1923. Gerhard is telling this story as part of #Canada150 celebrations, and to celebrate the contributions that refugees have made to Canada since confederation.

“My father Gerhard Ens was a teacher, minister and radio broadcaster.  He was born in the Ukraine in 1922. His family moved to Reinland, Manitoba in 1923 where he attended Normal School in Winnipeg to become a teacher and worked on farms during the Second World War and as an orderly in a hospital in Portage la Prairie.

By 1946, my father was teaching at the Mennonite Collegiate Institute, where he taught for 31 years. He met my mother Anni Niebuhr during the summer school session.  They were later married in 1950 and lived in Gretna with their five children. My father founded the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society in 1958 and produced in 1972 a Low German radio program that sought to celebrate the centennial of the Mennonite settlements in Manitoba. He continued to do this for the next 34 years having produced over 1,400 programs on three radio stations.

He was ordained in 1958 and worked with the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba.  By 1977, we moved to Winnipeg where my father became the editor of the German newspaper Der Bote. My father’s achievements in sharing, preserving and advancing Mennonite history resulted in his 2008 award of excellence from the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada.

“Canada not only provided a haven for his people, the Mennonites, but provided him with a good life and respected his decision to take a stand as a conscientious objector during World War II.”

My father was a deeply religious man who felt lucky to be a Canadian, and indeed, he loved this country. Canada not only provided a haven for his people, the Mennonites, but provided him with a good life and respected his decision to take a stand as a conscientious objector during World War II, allowing him to serve in alternative service for the duration of the war. For this he was deeply appreciative.

By Gerhard Ens based on the Story of Gerhard Ens, Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encylopedia Online.

Photos courtesy of Gerhard Ens Jr: Gerhard Ens Jr with his father, Gerhard Ens Sr (second from the left) with brothers and friends.