I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years

by Alice Katherine (Schuetzle) Kanewischer

Edited by Jeannette Zollner published by the author, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 1996, 385 pages, softcover.

The Germans from Russia community has been favored with this outstanding new book, I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years by Alice Kanewischer of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. Alice presents a wonderful autobiography sharing the story of her family and the Germans from Russia in Alberta and on the western Canadian prairies -- their hard work ethic, their love for the land and to succeed, their strong beliefs, their struggles in the 1930's, and their pioneer homesteading spirit which transcends throughout the book.

Jeannette Zollner, who edited the book, writes, "As an autobiography, it has not only served to heal the author, but offers an example of how an understanding of the background leads to forgiveness and a greater understanding of self...Best of all, the novel serves as a model and a stimulus. Each family has its own story to tell...No amount of money given as inheritance can be as precious and enduring as the giving of your family history. These are the heirlooms that bond us to our past, and give richness to the future generations."

I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years is a book that merits our gratitude and thanks to the author for documenting so well her story of life. Thank you Alice Kanewischer for presenting this fine book for our Germans from Russia people.

--- Michael M. Miller, Germans from Russia Bibliographer, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo

Alice Kanewischer writes in the Prologue to I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years:

I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years has truly been a labor of love by me for my extended family. This autobiography has been founded on family pride and gratitude for the strong family ties that have surrounded us with love and destined our past and future...

"If someone in our past generation had taken the time to write a diary, we would know the true spirit and dreams they had. By documenting their lives, we permit our future generations to become aware of the struggles that came with the taming of the virgin sod. May the reader visualize and discover how much courage and unfailing determination it required to live out this almost impossible dream. Their preparation for this new country was limited to a few hand tools - almost all their earthly possessions could be stored in one large trunk. These same pioneers in their time of need and discouragement never begged for any earthly gain from the government, their only request was to be allowed to worship in freedom in the faith of their choice, and to become individual land owners.

"Great Grandpa (to me), Jacob Croissant, must have had a hidden desire to be remembered in the years to come. Can you imagine him sitting by his small homemade wooden table? His only source of light was a wax candle, as he so carefully dipped his only pen into the small inkwell, and very neatly wrote into the only book he had -- The German Bible. With deep thoughts he wrote, I - Jacob....

"If I were to be granted the impossible, I'd love to have our elders return to the area they homesteaded so they could see the many trees that have been planted, the dams, roads, the beautiful farm homes that have been built, and see the huge machinery that is now being used..."

From the Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta

Part family history, part autobiography and part historical novel, I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years is a collection of stories many older Medicine Hat residents will be able to relate to.

And it's a book younger readers can learn from. I - Alice documents the life of author Alice Kanewischer's forefathers, who came to Canada via the United States, after leaving Russia in the 19th century.

Many of us who do our family research on the Black Sea people start with our people first coming to the United States before the Dakota Territory was broken into states in 1889. We follow some of their first migrations within the U.S. trying to find the right homestead, and then see at about the turn of the century -- several of our families not only moved to the North but all the way to Canada.

With these earlier peoples, we often direct our labor of love researching our ancestors and their families more towards gaining documented information regarding their births, marriages and deaths. We are very happy along these trails if we can find a few scraps of oral tradition.

So when we get ready to do "our book," we end up with lots of life event data and a scattering of oral traditions.

Well, with Alice Kanewischer's families coming a generation later than many of ours, she has been able to gather great amounts of the family oral traditions from people who were there. So with this great work of hers you will find a book that many of our parents could have put together for us if they had only taken time to do so.

The sharing Alice has been able to do with this wonderful book of hers is something all of us should find time to enjoy. Her grandchildren have already had the benefit of Alice showing them around the area their ancestors settled and now they have the book with a treasure chest of family history to pass to their descendants.

The inspiration Alice's book holds for the rest of us to assimilate is something you cannot appreciate until you examine this lady's remarkable undertaking and its extraordinary results as reflected in I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years.

Highlights of the story

Jacob Croissant Sr., born ca 1830, and Anna Maria Führmann, born ca 1828, were parents of Jacob Jr., born October, 1851 in Rohrbach of the Beresan District in the Odessa area.

Jacob Croissant Jr. married Susanne Schoretlin in 1870. In about 1909, Jacob Jr. left Russia with his wife, his only daughter (widowed) and her son, his two bachelor sons, and his oldest son and his family.

They first went to the Menno-Freeman, SD area for two years then moved on to Hilda in Alberta, Canada. This was to be the area the family settled. The first 3 chapters of this book sets the stage for the telling of the rest of the story after their arrival in the Hilda area. The book is a 400-page item with a total of 28 chapters. Each chapter is its own little story.

If you enjoy reading of the German Russian settlers' lives, or if you are planning on doing your own book one of these days, or have a special interest in the Rohrbach families, or just enjoy good reading, you have to spend some time with this book. Once you pick it up and spend a little time with it, you will finish reading it!

Reprinted with permission from the Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.

Related Articles:

Review of the book by Carol Just Halverson

Review of the book by Virginia Byfield

I - Alice: Embrace the Yester Years

$38.00 plus Shipping & Handling

Printable Order Form

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller