Embrace the Yester Years
Review by Virginia Byfield
Katherina, Alice. I-Alice Embrace the Yester Years. Edited by Jeanette Zollner. Clagary, Alberta, 1996.
Germans from Russia (cataloging in process). (not
available on interlibrary loan).
Kanewischer traces her clan's history from the mid-19th century
to 1945. She intended her book primarily for her "extended
family " -- the Croissants (her mother's people), the Schuetzles
(her father's people) and myriad collateral connections (Lorenz,
Roth, Klukus, Schuler, Dufloth, Myer, Hepper and more), especially
her grandchildren. But it is of far wider interest.
Mrs. Kanewischer imaginatively reconstructs their earlier experiences
through family legend and living memory, especially that of her
mother's elder sister Sarah. Also helpful were such artifacts as
the notation inscribed by her maternal great-grandfather in the
Gothic German script in his Bible, which begins: "I Jacob Croissant
was born in South Russia, in the colony of Rohrbach, in the year
of 1851, October 29..." (The "I-Alice" with which
she refers to herself picks up this Schwabian-German idiom.) He
was the man who in 1909 led his own family and two of their families
to central Alberta.
With her mother's life and her own, author Kanewischer is on firmer
historical ground. Her recollections of childhood and youth on the
farm through the 1930s and 40s vividly depict a life whose joys
and hardships may be literally incomprehensible to young people
today--even rural ones. The routine hardships become entirely real.
So do the love and kindness with which the Schuetzles cared for
a helplessly handicapped son, and (for nine years) a dangerously
The writing, the editing and the production of neophyte and self-published
books varies greatly, of course, but it can reach professional levels.
These four are among the best, and each in its own style is fascinating--because
it is personal, it is local, and (we are assured) true as its author
can make it. And they all accomplish their purpose, capturing one
particular slice of 20th-century life for the rest of us--or our
Reprinted with permission of the Alberta Report, Medicine
Hat, Alberta, March 16, 1998.