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Remember Us: Letters from Stalin's Gulag (1930-37): Volume One: The Regehr Family

Book review by Jon Fear

Siemens, Ruth Derksen. Remember Us: Letters from Stalin's Gulag (1930-37): Volume One: The Regehr Family. Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario, 2008.


Dr. Ruth Derksen Siemens reads from her new book Remember Us: Letters from Stalin’s Gulag during a book launch and film premiere last Saturday at Bakerview Church. The event was hosted by the Mennonite Historical Society of BC and also featured the release of the film Through the Red Gate: Voices from Stalin’s Gulag.

Life under Joseph Stalin was a bleak experience for Mennonites trapped in Russia. Those who were able to escape to Canada occasionally received letters that were somehow secreted out of their former homeland by those who remained and continued to suffer.

Ruth Derksen Siemens, a University of British Columbia professor and a first-generation Canadian of Russian Mennonite descent, tells their story in her book Remember Us: Letters from Stalin's Gulag (1930-37), produced by Pandora Press of Kitchener.

Her book is a guide to translations of 131 letters written in a Russia prison camp by nine-year-old Lena Regehr, her older siblings and her parents, Jasch and Maria Regehr.

Peter Bargen, a son of the recipients of those letters in Carylyle, Sask., discovered them in a family member's attic in Canada in 1989. In total, 463 letters were found and in future volumes Derksen Siemens plans to describe the stories told by other families who were "caught in Stalin's snare."

The book and a documentary DVD that is called Through The Red Gate. A portion of the profits will go to the Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia and to the Mennonite Archives in Winnipeg.

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