ESL Cooperative Blog

My Family’s Immigration Story — James Edel

My Family’s Immigration Story — James Edel

In today’s blog post, CESLM’s Vice-President, James Edel, shares how his grandfather’s family came over to Canada.

The Russians made my great-grandfather Julius fight in a war.  This would have been a very bad experience for anyone, but on top of this, he didn’t speak Russian—he spoke German.  My great-grandfather hated war and this one was a horrible war, with no clear winner.  His son Richard was born on March 14th, 1920, on a sunny, windy day in a little town called Kollosna in Vollinia, Russia.  This part of Russia is now called Ukraine. Germans in this part of the country had come and began farming and set up a church there.  The first Baptist church was established in 1864.  German Baptists had immigrated and been living there for at least 60 years. The church was important to people; it helped bring them together.  Times were tough, when one war was over a new one began.  German Baptists were outsiders in this region and their numbers were growing – this made the locals nervous!

Julius decided to flee this area because he saw no future there.  He fled in 1926 when my grandfather, Richard, was only 5 years old. Richard scarcely remembered this time but I imagine he asked lots of questions along the way.  They got to Hamburg, Germany and boarded a ship.  The ship was bound for Montreal, Quebec.  This was a French-speaking province but they wouldn’t stay there.  The family took a train to Manitoba.  Man-i-to-ba.  The name sounded strange but this was their new home.  They would have to get used to it.  And Canada, Ca-na-da, was their new country.  This young immigrant family was excited about their new country.  There were lots of German-speaking immigrants there, which meant they could speak their mother-tongue.  There was also a church that used German in the service!  Julius and his 3 sons and his 2 daughters (1 decided to stay in Russia) were more than ready for a fresh start.  Julius’s wife a was never short on laughter and soon they’re home was buzzing, with cabbage rolls cooking in the oven and perogies being stuffed, or maybe potato pancakes, and someone was always singing. English wasn’t too hard, Richard learned English fast, he was only in Gr.1.  But he would always reserve German for doing the important things: he sang worships songs in German, and arguing—intense arguing—was always done in German.  But Richard, didn’t worry too much about German. There was a country being built and politics to get involved with! Maybe they would move west to Banff, or elsewhere in Alberta.  Life in Canada would be exciting!

Note: If you would like to capture your family’s immigration experience in a story form, go for it. You are welcome to send it in to if you would like to have it published here.

James-EdelJames Edel


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Posted in: Immigration Stories, James Edel

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