TourMagination keeps the Anabaptist story alive by helping North Americans explore their heritage in Europe and beyond. This time, we helped Mennonites recall their collective history in Canada. We were pleased to work along the Russlaender Centenary Committee over the past four years to bring the Memories of Migration tour to life. Thousands of Mennonites commemorated the centenary of the Russlaender migration by joining the tour or a local event between July 6-25 in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, or BC.

Some Stats

126 people travelled on the three segments of the tour from Quebec, City to Abbotsford, BC

  • 30 young adults were sponsored to join the tour to learn about their heritage
  • 92 attended the Russlaender 100 Gala in Montréal
  • 200 attended the academic conference in-person and 170 online
  • 2,300 people sang their hearts out at the Singing our Journey: Sängerfest 2023 held at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg
  • An astounding $103,048 was donated to the MCC Russlaender Remembrance Fund!

Some Unforgettable Moments

Gala Dinner, Montreal

Colonel Dennis of the CPR receiving thanks from Mennonite girls in 1937. (Photo: Coaldale Alberta Mennonite Archival Information Database)

“We are here tonight to pay tribute to a moment in history special to both Mennonites and the former Canadian Pacific Railway,” said Aileen Friesen, co-director with the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Friesen noted that the railway loaned Mennonites $1,767,368.68 so they could come to Canada. “This is a tribute to the lives saved through this loan, the second chance given, the generations created, the contributions to Canadian society made.” READ MORE

Music & Readings, Waterloo, ON

Mennonites gathered in Waterloo, ON for the premiere of ‘The Place of Memory.’ (Photo: John Longhurst)

“[Russlaender] came to a new “promised land,” from a “lost paradise,” said Marlene Epp professor emeritus at Conrad Grebel University College. Epp addressed a full-house at Knox Presbyterian Church, Waterloo, ON. They listened to music and readings that featured the premiere performance of “The Place of Memory,” composed and conducted by Juno-nominated Leonard Enns and performed by the DaCapo choir with cellist Miriam Stewart-Kroeker. READ MORE
Also, listen to a recording of the event.

Sängerfest, Winnipeg

Sängerfest at the sold out Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall on July 15. (Photo: John Longhurst)

“When I heard the audience sing the first hymn, I knew it was something extraordinary,” said Henry Engbrecht, who conducted the adult choir and the congregational singing at the Singing our Journey: Sängerfest 2023 at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg. READ MORE

Mennonite Piano Concerto, Saskatoon, SK

Jerry Hu and Godwin Friesen play Victor Davies’ Mennonite Piano Concerto (Photo: Ingrid Moehlmann)

Two sensational young pianists, Jerry Hu and Godwin Friesen delighted the crowd at The Victor Davies Mennonite Piano Concerto at the Quance Theatre, University of Saskatchewan.

Heritage Village, east of Edmonton, AB

Travellers at the heritage village. (Photo: Ingrid Moehlmann)

He’s known as the father of universal health care in Canada, but did you know Tommy Douglas considered Mennonite mutual aid in Alberta as his model for the system? Historian Ted Regehr shared this fact with tour members and local Mennonites. READ MORE

Reconciliation Gathering at Semá:th First Nation Long House, east of Abbotsford, BC

Members of the Semá:th First Nation drumming at the July 24 gathering

Richard Thiessen, president of the Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia, apologized to representatives of the Semá:th (Sumas) First Nation for how they were displaced by their Mennonite ancestors. Tour members and local Mennonites enjoyed Semá:th storytelling, a meal, Indigenous music, and they sang the doxology for their hosts. READ MORE

READ blog posts about the Russlaender 100 Tour by journalist John Longhurst on the Canadian Mennonite website.


Footage of the tour collected by Kenji Dyck has been transferred to award-winning director Andrew Wall for a forthcoming documentary on the Russlaender story.


If you wish to make a tax-receipted donation to help fund this documentary, please contact Aileen Friesen, chair of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada’s documentary committee.

Thank you to all who contributed to the planning of the tour and its events:

  • Russlaender Centenary Committee: Henry Paetkau (Chair), Richard Thiessen (Secretary) & Cheryl Isaac (BC), Katie Harder and Gary Friesen (AB), Jake Buhler (SK), Ingrid Moehlmann (Vice Chair) & Aileen Friesen (MB), Harold Thiessen (ON), Luke Martin (QC), and Darryl Loewen, MCCC.
  • Academic conference planning team: Aileen Friesen, Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, and Jeremy Wiebe
  • Saskatchewan events coordinators: Jake Buhler, Duff Warkentin, Berny Wiens, Nicole Thiessen, Donna Schulz, Barb Wolfe, Don Sawatzky, Barb and Werner Froese, Leonard Doell, and Garry LaPlante
  • BC planning team: Calvin Dyck, Ingrid Epp, Cheryl Isaac, Linda Klassen, Jennifer Martens, Richard Thiessen
  • Alberta planning team: Ted Regehr, Dave Toews, KenMatis, Brian Hildebrandt, Gary Friesen and Katie Harder
  • Manitoba planning team: Conrad Stoesz, Andrea Klassen, Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, Ingrid Moehlmann, Henry Engbrecht, Henry Schroeder and Aileen Friesen
  • Ontario events planning team: Leonard Enns, Marlene Epp, Laureen Harder-Gissing, Ed Janzen, David G. Neufeld, David Y. Neufeld, Henry Paetkau, Harold Thiessen, Hildi Froese Tiessen
  • Quebec planning team: Luke Martin, Ingrid Moehlmann
  • Audrey Voth Petkau, Cheryl Gilmore and the TourMagination team for providing tour planning and logistics

Thank you to all our sponsors and partners:

Tour Sponsors

  • The Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg, Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Mennonite Church Canada
  • David and Katherine Friesen Foundation, the Schroeder Foundation, the Oak Tree Foundation
  • Peter Redekop, Peter Letkemann, Art and Leona Defehr, Bill and Margaret Fast

Academic Conference Sponsors (Winnipeg)

  • The Paul Toews Professorship Fund (University of Winnipeg)
  • The H. Sanford Riley Fellowship in Canadian History (University of Winnipeg)
  • Mennonite Central Committee Canada

Montreal Gala Sponsor

  • Canadian Pacific Kansas City (formerly CP Rail)

Saengerfest sponsors (Winnipeg)

  • John and Bonnie Buhler, the Winnipeg Foundation, Golden West, Triple E Recreational Vehicles

Play Sponsor (Winnipeg)

  • David Riesen Foundation

BC Saengerfest Sponsor

  • Columbia Cabinets, anonymous donors

Media Partners

More Partners

  • Mennonite Central Committee.