The three-part Russlaender Centenary Tour will re-enact the historic migration of 21,000 Mennonites from Russia to Canada beginning in 1923. With the help of established Mennonites, the migrants found new homes in Canada in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution—a time of civil war, famine, and epidemic. This tour celebrates the faith of these newcomers, memorializes the challenges of resettlement, acknowledges race and displacement in Canadian history. The tour is a collaborative effort among Canadian Mennonite historians and heritage enthusiasts. Tour leaders Henry Paetkau and Ingrid Moehlmann, along with other historic resource people, will share informative talks during the tour.
Memories of Migration: Russlaender 100 Tour 1
The Russlaender Memories of Migration tour starts in Quebec City, where the first Mennonites leaving post-revolutionary Russia arrived in the summer of 1923. After exploring the immigrant Quarantine Station on Grosse Isle and visiting the old city, participants will take the train to the Montreal headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Dr. Aileen Friesen will explore the connection between the railway and the Mennonites at a gala dinner sponsored by the CPR in the Queen Elizabeth II Hotel. The Ontario portion of the tour begins with a re-enactment of the 1924 walk from the Waterloo train station to Erb Street Mennonite Church, followed by a “faspa” dinner at one or more Swiss Mennonite churches. Also, visit the archives and library at Conrad Grebel University College, Brubacher House museum, and other local sites. One evening features a multi-media event with a choir commission, hymn-singing, readings from historical letters and diaries, and a short talk. On the final day, choose from two bus trips to visit Waterloo’s Old Order Mennonite country or the Niagara Peninsula.
Tour 1: Quebec City to Kitchener, ON, July 6-12, 2023 (7-day tour)
From 4363 CAD/3636 USD/per person* (Does not include PST/HST)
Thursday, July 6
Arrive in Quebec City and check into your hotel. This evening, meet your fellow travellers and tour leaders in the old city for a welcome dinner and an overview of the tour.
Friday, July 7
Today, explore this beautiful, historic city established in 1608. First with the whole group, visit the Russlaender landing site at Gross Isle and recall the families who started their new lives in Canada in the 1920s. After lunch together, explore Quebec City on your own. You could take a walking tour of the old city, a UNESCO world heritage site with French and British-influenced architecture plus landmarks built during the Romantic and Art Deco movements.
Saturday, July 8
Following an early breakfast, depart for Montreal by train. The train is scheduled to depart at 8:00am, and arrive in Montreal at 11:35am. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel. Tour the Russlaender landing port and the former CP Rail headquarters at Windsor Station. Hear about the CPR’s involvement with the Russlaender migration. Also, tour Montreal’s old town. After eating lunch together, return to the hotel to get ready for an evening Gala dinner sponsored by CPR and with a CPR theme. Hear Russlaender presentations and greetings from dignitaries, including Senator Peter Harder.
Sunday, July 9
After breakfast, we depart Montreal for Kitchener via Toronto by train. The train is scheduled to depart Montreal at 8:50am, and arrive in Toronto at 2:18pm. Upon arrival in Kitchener, check into your hotel. This evening Faspa will be hosted by one of the local Mennonite churches of Swiss origin.
Monday, July 10
Today we will divide into two groups. Both groups will visit the Mennonite Archives of Ontario/Milton Good Library at Conrad Grebel University College, the Woodside Historic Site (birthplace of former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King) and the Brubacher House (Mennonite homestead and museum). Additional sites could include Swiss Mennonite churches that hosted the Russlaenders, and MCC Ontario headquarters and Thrift Store at 50 Kent. Finally, groups will converge at Conrad Grebel for a Russian Mennonite lunch. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon and choose where to have dinner. This evening, enjoy a multi-media event including a Sängerfest, choirs, readings from historical letters and diaries, a short talk, and photos. An entry fee will cover costs and a donation toward services for refugees or indigenous people.
Tuesday, July 11
Choose your preferred day trip.
Option 1: Tour the Niagara Peninsula to see Vineland, Virgil, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls.
Option 2: Tour Old Order Mennonite country in Waterloo Region for a full or half-day. Experience the Mennonite Story, an interpretative centre in St. Jacobs. Also, see local Mennonite farms and businesses.
Wednesday, July 12
Depart for home or board a train for Winnipeg and the next leg of the Russlaender 100 journey. The train is scheduled to depart Toronto at 9:45am, and arrive in Winnipeg at 7:30 pm (July 13th).
*Rates listed are “from” and do not include any taxes, HST or applicable discounts. Restrictions and limitations may be applicable and will be subject to availability at time of booking.
REGISTER for the Russlaender 100 tour: Part 1 with a $1500/person tour deposit by September 30, 2022 to secure your preferred train accommodation.
GET A TASTE OF THE TOUR by watching the webinar below with Dr. Aileen Friesen. Explore the experiences of Mennonites in the Soviet Union as they prepared to immigrate to Canada in the 1920s.
Henry Paetkau will lead a second webinar called A New Home in Canada on October 28, 2021, 6:30 CT/7:30 ET. REGISTER on Zoom.
SOME INFO FROM VIA RAIL
Corridor – Part 1 from Quebec City to Kitchener
The Canadian – Parts 2 and 3 from Toronto to Abbotsford
For more details, see the VIA Rail brochure.
- Prestige booking only available for the entire duration of Toronto to Vancouver