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Me and My House cover

  • Paperback Edition
    • 978-1-03-918707-8
    • 5.5 x 8.5 inches
    • Black & White interior
    • 204 pages
  • Hardcover Edition
    • 978-1-03-918708-5
    • 5.5 x 8.5 inches
    • Black & White interior
    • 204 pages
  • Keywords
    • Mennonite history,
    • Mennonite family,
    • Mennonite emigration,
    • Mennonite schism,
    • Nineteenth century history,
    • South Russia,
    • West Prussia

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Me and My House
by Dick Derksen

Mennonites seemed to need to move somewhere every century, and ME AND MY HOUSE is almost a travelog, as it takes us from one part of Europe to another many kilometres away. As it moves from one generation to another, the nature of life in each location becomes the focus of our story. Beginning in the recently-created West Prussia of 1788, we accompany various members of the Derksen clan to Chortiza, the new colony beginning in South Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great. It does not take long for that colony to exhaust the land it had been granted, and Molotschna was added to the list of Mennonite settlements. As this land, too, became used up, another colony, Berthal, was founded; this time the land was bought from Russian nobles, but the same privileges were granted to these settlers, mostly from Chortiza. Most of the Derksen clan found themselves having settled there in 1836, and our story concludes with everyone in that colony planning on a move to southern Manitoba, Canada. During their time in South Russia, Mennonite values that had been well-established in the Werder were under new challenges as society changed, and new inventions made work more productive. Religious stresses put pressure on the Old Church to examine itself, but it did not prevent new branches of the Mennonite Church to evolve.

The Derksens, along with many other Mennonites in the Werder, now that Frederick the Great had annexed the area as West Prussia, decided to move to South Russia and begin a new life there under the privileges granted by Catherine the Great, Czarina of Russia. In 1788 they set out on the Long Trek, arriving in 1789 and building the colony of Chortiza. This colony soon outgrew its bounds and Molotschna was founded, then Bergthal and many others. The Derksen clan elected to move to Bergthal, where they thrived and multiplied. Here, too, after settling in among the Ukrainians, Russians and Tatars of that area, the Derksens find that their Czar, Alexander II, finds ways to curtail the privileges granted by his forebears, and the Mennonites once more elect to move on. That will be covered in the final volume in this series, WE WILL SERVE.

Dick came of the Mennonites that emigrated from South Russia in 1874. It was his Great-Great Grandfather, Dr. Jacob Derksen, that brought his family over to Manitoba. Dick was born in Lowe Farm, Manitoba, in the West Reserve, but moved when he was seven years old to Mission, BC, where he took the rest of his elementary schooling. In 1952 the family moved northward to Vanderhoof, BC, where Dick grew up fifteen miles out of town on a small bush farm, working in the family sawmill until he left home in 1960 to go to Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, AB. After graduating in 1964, he returned to Prairie High School and finished his matriculation. He then moved to Calgary, where he began his B.Ed. studies in school music and social studies in 1966. After graduating in 1970, he taught at Harold Panabaker Junior High School until 1976. Jeraldine (Jerry) Wilkinson joined Dick at Prairie in 1960 and continued in the same class until they graduated together in 1964. She then finished nurses' training in the Galt School in Lethbridge in 1967, after which she began work as an operating-room nurse. Dick and Jerry married August 31, 1968, and in March, 1971, welcomed Derek into their home, joined by Devon in February,1973. In September, 1976, the family moved to Kandern, West Germany, to teach at Black Forest Academy. Their career took them through several moves and the beginnings of Vienna Christian School and the administration of EurECA. Jerry took up bookkeeping and Dick studied at The University of Bath, England, where he completed his MA and took all the courses for his Ed.D., before retiring in 2007 without doing his dissertation. Both their sons have successful careers, and Dick and Jerry have lived in Calgary since that time.


Dick Derksen
Jerry Derksen

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