See new entry far below for George Dyck
North American Resource Leaders assisting Marina and Walter Unger
on the 2018 Mennonite Heritage Cruise  

Alan Peters
          Alan Peters

Alan Peters in former Mennonite territory in northern Poland

We all have many histories.  We are citizens of nations with histories that we study in school.  We are members of communities with their own histories that provide us with cherished traditions.  We belong to churches with their own histories that shape the way we think and believe.  Most important of all, we are each part of a family with its own powerful history, filled with gripping stories that have made us who we are--body, mind and spirit.

One of the goals of the Mennonite Heritage Cruise is to assist each of you to rediscover, remember and revisit the absolutely unique persons, places and events that have impacted your family over the generations, and which have brought about your own personal history, shared with those in your life, but also unique and unlike that of any other person.

Alan Peters, a lifelong student of Mennonite family history, and one of the founders of the GRANDMA Project,
which in its latest edition contains genealogical and historical information on more than a million persons with Mennonite ancestry.  Alan served as the staff genealogist and resource leader for the former Mennonite Heritage Cruises, and he has continued leading tours since the cruise ended, mainly in the former Mennonite settlements in what is now Poland, which was the former homeland of most of the Mennonites who later moved to South Russia. Alan will be working with each of you with Mennonite roots in Ukraine to find your own family's story.  He will provide you with an "Ahnentafel"--or table of ancestors--which shows what is currently known about your ancestry.  It will provide names, dates, locations, and some historical tidbits about those who have walked here before you.  You might even be able to add previously unknown information that will help make new linkages that will connect you to additional ancestors and their stories.  He will be contacting each of you individually regarding your own family's story.

Alan will be one of the resource leaders on the tour itself, available in person during the cruise for consultation about your own family's history, and he will also share information and insights about the origins and intricacies of our families' origins, relationships, and traditions.  This will include a seminar session late in the cruise in which he will discuss the process of doing Mennonite family research.

He has given numerous presentations on Mennonite history and genealogy at various church, historical society, and academic workshops, and is one of the founders--and for many years President--of the California Mennonite Historical Society.  He is also a member of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR), and has been a frequent presenter at AHSGR meetings and conferences throughout California.  His most recent studies have been in the arena of genetics and DNA research, examining the significance of DNA in determining the origins and relationships within Mennonite families. 
John Martens
Martens 1Martens 2

John Martens celebrating Canada 150 on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts

John Martens is a Manitoba native, the son of post-revolution immigrants. Most of his career was devoted to agriculture research with Agriculture Canada in Winnipeg and Ottawa. While in Manitoba he was involved with church camping and seniors’ housing. His agriculture career took him to more than 30 countries, including the former USSR and Poland. He served as the agricultural and science resource person on the Mennonite Heritage Cruises. He is keenly interested in the story of the Mennonite people and in advancing the Mennonite archives. John is still a member of the Ottawa Mennonite Church although he lives on Vancouver Island with his wife, Janice. They enjoy camping, hiking, and visiting seniors. They celebrated Canada 150 by visiting Haida Gwaii in the far northwest Pacific and Newfoundland on the eastern coast.

Aileen Friesen

Aileen in

Aileen Friesen on the Amalfi coast, Italy

Aileen Friesen grew up listening to stories about Russia from her maternal grandparents who left the Soviet Union in the 1920s. To understand their homeland, she pursued a master’s degree in Russian studies, learned the language, and eventually completed a Ph.D in Russian history. Over the years, she has travelled extensively in Ukraine and Russia and has conducted research in Omsk, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. For three weeks, she lived in the village of Apollonovka (formerly Waldheim) in Omsk province, interviewing local Baptist/Mennonite farmers on their agricultural history. Her favourite memories from that trip include an evening of seeding on the Siberian steppe, corralling calves, and taking meddachschlop on the couches of Omas. Although she frequently throws out Low German words to describe her 1-year-old son, she does not know the language, having studied “proper German” in school.   

As a historian, Aileen has a forthcoming book on Russian Orthodoxy and empire with University of Toronto Press, in addition to authoring numerous articles and blog posts on Russian Mennonite history. As the inaugural J. Winfield Fretz Visiting Research Scholar in Mennonite Studies at Conrad Grebel University College, she will be presenting on a number of Mennonite-related topics, including Muslim-Mennonite relations in the Russian empire, Mennonite refugees in Harbin, Mennonites and the 1917 Russian Revolution, and Mennonites and the Holocaust in Ukraine. She also had the honour of editing Paul Toews’ Mennonite Heritage Cruise Lectures, which will be published in early 2018 by the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies (* see below). While Paul’s lectures will serve as inspiration for her talks on the cruise, she will add new threads to the story that reflect the findings of recent research. This is her first Mennonite Heritage Cruise and she is excited to join the senior cruise team and serve in various functions on the ship.
* The book of Paul Toews lectures has evolved into a beautiful hundred page plus coffee table book, with lots of pictures. It is titled "The Russian Mennonite Story: the Heritage Cruise Lectures". The price is $39.00 CAD including shipping. It will be published early in the New Year. It can be ordered through this website.

Rudy Friesen

                      in Ukraine

Rudy Friesen connecting people with their history in a former Mennonite village
The woman on the right is the mayor of Zelenopole (Gruenfeld, Schlachtin-Baratov Colony) Lyudmilla Kostyryova
 on the left is Rudy's daughter Kandis
This photo was taken May 2016 by
Vadim Korenevsky. Rudy was assisting Kandis with her Canada Council funded art film project

Rudy P. Friesen is a leading Mennonite architectural historian. For decades, he has helped people find their roots in the former Mennonite colonies in Russia/Ukraine.

Rudy’s meticulous research and well-documented theories are illuminating Russian Mennonite history in new ways. Since 1978, he has travelled throughout eastern Ukraine more than 25 times photographing and taking notes in former Mennonite settlements and remaining buildings.

Rudy’s book, Building on the Past: Mennonite Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements in Russia/Ukraine, is the definitive resource on Mennonite material culture still remaining. This book has been translated into Ukrainian and German. He has been in extensive contact with Ukrainian museum professionals in addition to others specializing in this field of research.

As a resource leader on all 16 Mennonite Heritage Cruises in Ukraine between 1995 and 2010, Rudy guided thousands of fellow travelers through their ancestral villages and colonies, helping them locate and touch places that pulse with personal and historical meaning.

Closer to home, Rudy is Partner Emeritus of ft3 Architecture Landscape Interior Design, a firm he founded. He continues to exercise leadership, nationally and internationally, in creating better environments for elders.

Howard Dyck

Howard Dyck
Conductor/broadcaster Howard Dyck

Photo taken in Mangshi, a small city (300,000) in the southwestern most corner of China, just a few kms from the Myanmar border. Mangshi is known as the peacock capital of the world, hence the special hat made for me by the 2 women on either side of me. I still have the hat. I was performing with the Kunming Symphony Orchestra of which I was conductor-in-residence in the spring of 2013. I am looking forward to my third cruise involvement, including the inaugural Mennonite Heritage Cruise, back in 1995.

Howard Dyck is the conductor of the Nota Bene Baroque Players & Singers, Artistic Director Emeritus of the Grand Philharmonic Choir (Kitchener-Waterloo) and Conductor Emeritus of the Bach Elgar Choir (Hamilton). He is well known across Canada as the former program host of Choral Concert and Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio.

Howard Dyck’s international conducting career has taken him to twenty countries on three continents where he has conducted, among others, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Arnold Schoenberg Choir of Vienna, the Mozarteum Orchestra (Austria), the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and Obretenov Choir (Bulgaria), the Bach Collegium and Gächinger Kantorei (Germany), the Taipei Symphony Orchestra & Chorus (Taiwan), the State Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg (Russia), the Orquestra Do Norte (Portugal) and
the Kunming Symphony Orchestra (China).

His discography includes: Bach – Missa Brevis in g; Handel – Messiah Highlights (SONY Classical); Verdi – Requiem; Beethoven – Missa Solemnis (EMI); Brahms – Ein deutsches Requiem.

Singers of international distinction who have performed under Howard Dyck’s baton include: Sondra Radvanovsky, Nathalie Paulin, Measha Brueggergosman, Suzie Leblanc,  Karina Gauvin, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Catherine Robbin, Susan Platts, Daniel Taylor, Richard Margison, Ben Heppner, Rufus Müller, Michael Schade, Gary Relyea, Nathaniel Watson, John Relyea, Russell Braun, James Westman,  and Nathan Berg.

Howard Dyck has received numerous honours for his contributions to musical culture, both nationally and internationally. He holds honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, and is an Honorary Professor of Music at Yunnan Arts University (Kunming, China). Howard Dyck is a Member of the Order of Canada, and a recipient of the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals.

New   George Dyck

George Dyck is the son of post WWII immigrant parents.  As a young boy he spent many hours at his Opa & Oma Unrau's farm listening to stories of their flight from Ukraine in 1943-44. During the past two decades he has found it fascinating to be able to explore the many ancestral villages. After a few visits it became clear that in many ways village life in some areas of Ukraine is not much different today than it was 100 years ago when Mennonites farmed the vast steppes.

George joined in the effort to provide hope to villagers through humanitarian and social aid provided by the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine with headquarters in Molochansk, formerly Halbstadt, Molotschna, and now a leading Mennonite agency in Ukraine. As a longtime member of the board of directors he is presently the treasurer of this Canadian sponsored organization and spends time regularly in Ukraine. As a walking encyclopedia George will be involved both in the planning  and hosting of some of the July 2018 special bus theme tours.

George & his wife Teresa, who is the Mennonite Centre webmaster, live on their fruit farm near Vineland, Ontario. He was a secondary school math & auto teacher for 30 years and still enjoys tinkering on his vintage cars. They attend the Vineland Mennonite Church and enjoy traveling in retirement .

Photos show:
1. George and daughter Tera beside the 110 year old memorial of his great grandparents Peter & Katharina (Hildebrandt) Unrau in the Neu-Schoenwiese Mennonite Cemetery south-east of Zaporizhzhye.  The man on the right helped upright the fallen memorial.

2. George at the war front just north of Mariupol in a field station with Ukrainian soldiers.


Links to

Home page of site
About the Cruise
Remembering Paul Toews
Cabins and Suites
12 Day Sailing Program
Quotes from passengers
Link to Ukrainian team