Dedicated to our mother and father, Susanna (Siemens) Klassen and Waldemar Klassen.
Donated by Walter and Rita Klassen, Henry Klassen, Margaret Ann, Elsie K. Neufeld, Ernie Klassen, Rob and Charlotte Lepp.
Dedicated to our mother and father, Susanna (Siemens) Klassen and Waldemar Klassen who from the time of their birth were subject to the terrorism and devastation of Stalin's ruthless communist regime in Ukraine. While many family members perished, our parents were fortunate to have escaped their homeland in 1943 but were left homeless and without a country to call their own for five years. Living in constant fear of being captured by the Russian army, they continued to press westward and ultimately emigrated to Canada, finally, settling in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Not only were mom and dad robbed of many close family members who lost their lives to communism, their family homes in Neuendorf and Milaradovka were also confiscated. Throughout their lives in Ukraine, the communist regime terrorized, threatened, starved, enslaved and robbed families of all human dignity. Our paternal grandfather, Isaak Klassen, starved during one of Stalin's Five Year Plans, followed by the premature death of our paternal grandmother Anna (Van Kampen) Klassen, while our maternal grandfather, Heinrich Siemens, was ruthlessly ripped from his family home under the cover of darkness. Stalin's secret police, imprisoned and killed him for no reason other than that of his Mennonite Christian faith and his parent's previous economic status. The secret police, who constantly terrorized the villagers, surreptitiously arrived in the middle of the night and demanded that he surrender. Thus, the traumatized women and children were left to fend for themselves during the chaos of the war where starvation, rape and plunder were a daily occurrence; where the communists had wreaked havoc across the land. Basic survival became an even harsher daily struggle amidst the despair of losing their father.
As the war raged on, Susanna and Waldemar, together with several other family members and a few meagre belongings, were forced to flee their homes in Ukraine rather than succumb to Stalin's vicious regime. On October 11, 1943, our parents became refugees. Victims of a ruthless communist regime, they fled terrified and penniless, heading westward, seeking refuge in Germany, where they were briefly reunited with several family members. For five tumultuous years, they were refugees in Europe, homeless and at the mercy of others. When Canada awarded them the opportunity to begin a new life with their little one-year-old son, Waldemar, mom and dad reluctantly departed, leaving behind surviving family members who were not granted a Canadian Visa. They were destitute and alone, not knowing if they would ever be reunited or visit their homeland again. Upon receiving their immigration documents they were transported to Holland by train, where on July 11, 1948, they boarded the ocean liner, Volendam. Their ultimate destination was a world away, across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada.
Our parents were victims of communism. Their traumatic experiences haunted them every day of their lives. Dad never wanted to return to Ukraine, but our mother, upon reaching 80 years of age, determined that she would like to visit her homeland again. Arriving in her village, she despaired at the condition of the land and the homes. Ramshackle, dilapidated structures, overgrown fields, a wasteland rendered barren by the communists; with no infrastructure, their village was but a ghost of the past. It did not resemble the flourishing communities that once had been the "breadbasket" of Ukraine. Mother felt deep compassion as she saw the poverty-stricken, feeble old Russian residents that remained behind, barely eeking out a living. Communism had destroyed the heart and soul of both the land and ultimately, its own people. They too were Victims of Communism.