(Pixabay.com)

COLUMN: Reflecting on a massacre, 100 years later

Families have been affected by wartime experiences

On Monday, as we observe Remembrance Day, many Canadians will recount stories of how war has affected them or their families.

Some will remember serving during a time of war or during one of Canada’s peacekeeping missions. Others will remember the terrible day when news arrived that a loved one died in battle.

Some will remember how it felt during the months or years when a father or uncle was away from home during a war, and how it felt when the family was reunited after the war.

Some will have stories of how they or their families were civilians in a war-ravaged nation, how their mother or grandmother came to Canada as a war bride, or how their family arrived as Displaced Persons after the Second World War.

My family’s direct experience with war happened in a small Mennonite village in Ukraine 100 years ago, on the night of Saturday, Nov. 8, 1919.

It was a cold, rainy night during the Russian Civil War.

READ ALSO: Defiant vigil starts healing in New Zealand after massacre

READ ALSO: B.C.’s deadly past: Penticton shooting one of the worst massacres in provincial history

This was a period of unrest and upheaval in the years immediately following the 1917 Russian Revolution.

During that time, armed bandit groups plundered and ransacked the area. These raids were threatening and at times they became violent.

Landowners and German-speaking people were among those targeted. This included the Mennonites — German-speaking pacifists who had lived and farmed in the area since the late 1700s.

My grandfather, working as a school teacher in a neighbouring village, experienced at least two earlier incidents when bandit groups raided the village.

He recalled one incident, where he returned to find his home ransacked and his belongings taken.

There was a heightened level of tension during that time, and a growing fear that the raids would become increasingly violent.

The worst attack was in the village of Eichenfeld on Saturday, Nov. 8, 1919.

A bandit group raided the village and left more than 80 people dead, one-third of the village’s population.

Most of the dead were male landowners, but others included children, adults, visiting missionaries and a 65-year-old blind woman.

The dead were hastily buried in several mass graves.

If the weather had been a little different on that weekend, my grandfather likely would have been among those massacred.

The village where he worked was less than 10 kilometres from Eichenfeld and he had arranged to visit a friend in Eichenfeld for the weekend.

Because the weather that weekend was cold and rainy, he chose to stay home. As a result, he survived that horrible night.

His friend was among those who had been killed.

This happened a century ago. Today, I live in a different time and a different place.

We in Canada live in a peaceful country, and we are not experiencing a civil war or the aftermath of a revolution.

I am grateful for the life I am able to enjoy here, and for the fact that events such as the Eichenfeld massacre are part of my past, not my present.

In 2001, a memorial was set up at the site of the Eichenfeld massacre.

The memorial is a black slab, in the shape of a coffin, as a tribute to those who died during this massacre and during other massacres in the area from 1918 to 1920.

I will not be at this memorial marker on Nov. 8, but I plan to take some time to solemnly reflect on the massacre and on those who died that night 100 years ago.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon artist waves women’s flag in Penticton

SheShe declares femininity with all-encompassing exhibit

B.C. man gets life with no parole until 2042 years for murder of Belgian tourist near Boston Bar

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

Oliver to be future home of Canada’s first District Wine Village

The village will have 16 spaces for producers in the wine, cider, beer and spirits industry

Penticton’s Hoodoo Adventures to host first Canadian event in Adventure Racing World Series

“BC Wild” Canada Expedition will run June 2020 and highlight the Okanagan Valley

City of Penticton to offer free parking in the downtown on Saturday’s in December

This will come at a cost of approximately $5,000 to the city

Bye bye Bei Bei: Giant panda born in U.S. zoo heads to China

Panda heads back to China as part of cooperative breeding program

WATCH: Coldstream garage fire as hot as 275 C: deputy fire Chief

Shop fire potential for ‘one heck of a fireworks show,’ O’Hara says

North Okanagan women head up college board

Gloria Morgan named chair and Juliette Cunningham vice-chair Tuesday

‘Very disrespectful’: B.C. first responder irked by motorists recording collisions on cellphones

Central Cariboo Search and Rescue deputy chief challenges motorists to break the habit

Daily cannabis linked to reduction in opioid use: B.C. researchers

Researchers looked at a group of 1,152 people in Vancouver who reported substance use and chronic pain

Man accused in fatal Salmon Arm church shooting also charged with arson

Parmenter family home badly damaged by fire a month before killing

Thieves smash way into Vernon business

Incident at Simply Delicious happened at 4:30 a.m. and was caught on video

Pot shop opens near Princeton on band land

A medical and recreational cannabis shop opened earlier this month near Princeton.… Continue reading

Most Read