Now here’s a bit of an interesting surprise. I’ve been working on a talking eBook covering a series of essays on a Mennonite settlement in Russia that came into being in 1910. Of course there is a personal connection to the settlement in that my grandfather was one of its pioneers. That in fact is where my father grew up. I myself have never been there. Until a few years ago I had no idea where the heck the place was.
Well the thing is that I was looking for a piece of music to accompany the introduction to the piece when I came upon a Russian hymn that perfectly suited the mood I wanted to create. As I listened to the words I was unable to understand, I suddenly found myself weeping over the loss of the colony that had meant so much to my ancestors. It was as though a great dark cloud of sorrow swept over me that I could not dispel. And therein lies the question. I can’t imagine having written such a moving piece that I was overwhelmed by its message? Or do my family roots extend across the ocean, and if they do, why in Russia or the now Ukraine? Why not to the former Prussia or to Friesland where our ancestors originate? That’s extraordinary.
I remember annoying my mother a number of years ago, just to tease her. I stated matter-of-factly that we were not really of German extraction. Oh sure, for years our ancestors settled in the Danzig area of Prussia, but after all, it was now called Gdansk, a polish seaport. Fiercely proud of her own heritage, she calmly explained to me that if a cat had her kittens in a doghouse, they would still be kittens, not puppies, wouldn’t they? Well, you can’t much argue with that.
To the point: I was born here in Canada, was educated, worked and earned my living here. I am a true-blue red-blooded Canadian. My children and grand children are all here, and life is generally good. I take that for granted. So what is this longing, this pull to half way around the world – to a place I have never even visited? I don’t get it.
Perhaps it is just a bit of nostalgia over what might have been in the continuum of life on the old homestead had it persisted. But in the cold light of day we already know what happened to those who stayed. The records are quite clear that this blog would be coming from beyond the grave.
No, we should rather give thanks for the indestructible spirit our ancestors brought with them and instilled in us, their offspring so that we carry on the traits and characteristics they learned from those that went before them and that we pass on to those who come after us, no matter what piece of soil we put our blankets down on. At least, that’s how it seems to me from up here on the top shelf.