Com­ing to Canada

A tale of two fam­i­lies who achieved pros­per­ity in Canada through grace and hard work

More of Our Canada - - Content - by Ruby Hirch, Bow Is­land, Alta.

My story in­volves two im­mi­grant fam­i­lies—my own and my hus­band Ed­mund’s.

My par­ents, Paul and Inge­borg Ciesla, em­i­grated sep­a­rately from Ger­many in 1929 and 1933, re­spec­tively. My fa­ther set­tled in the Leth­bridge, Alta., area and worked for var­i­ous farm­ers dur­ing the De­pres­sion years. He also rode the rails to find work. Those years were very dif­fi­cult due to drought con­di­tions. At one point, he rented some land and planted pota­toes. In the fall, he ploughed up the pota­toes and left them overnight, plan­ning to bring the crop in the next morn­ing. Not know­ing how un­pre­dictable the weather could be, he went out

the next morn­ing to gather the pota­toes only to find that due to a se­vere frost overnight, his crop was ru­ined.

A while later, my mother came to Canada and my par­ents had to marry within two weeks or she would have been sent back to Ger­many.

Along with a busi­ness part­ner, they started a bak­ery. Their part­ner was a trained baker, while my fa­ther built a cart mounted on bi­cy­cle wheels and sold baked goods from door to door. Af­ter a cou­ple of years, the bak­ery busi­ness ended so my fa­ther be­gan a long ca­reer as a Watkins dealer (sell­ing nat­u­ral prod­ucts). My mother cleaned houses while she learned to speak English.

It was dur­ing this time that my sis­ter, my brother and I were all born. My dad's job pro­vided our fam­ily with a steady in­come for many years.

Even­tu­ally, my sis­ter and I be­came nurses and my brother a teacher. Our mother— a trained nurse in Ger­many —also worked as a nurse’s aide in the pe­di­atric ward in the lo­cal hos­pi­tal for 20 years.

I soon met a young im­mi­grant named Ed­mund Hirch.

The Hirch fam­ily started out in the Ukraine but were of

Ger­man de­scent—they were a part of Cather­ine the Great’s Ger­man set­tle­ment pro­gram.

Ed­mund’s fa­ther, Daniel, first came to Canada around 1909 but re­turned to Ukraine about four years later to marry; her name was Olga. Daniel’s plan was to even­tu­ally come back to Canada, but when the First World War broke out, he and Olga were not al­lowed to re­turn. They re­mained in Ukraine, be­gan a fam­ily and farmed for a liv­ing.

Time passed, and dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, their fam­ily was moved to Poland, where they once again farmed for sev­eral years but even­tu­ally fled to Ger­many. By this time, Ed­mund and his six sib­lings were all young adults. Although the fam­ily was split up for a time, even­tu­ally, through God’s grace, they were re­united.


Fi­nally, in April 1951, the Hirch fam­ily— Ed­mund, his par­ents and six sib­lings—all ar­rived at Pier 21 in Hal­i­fax. Cana­dian Lutheran World Relief paid the fares for the fam­ily to come by ship to Canada, to be re­paid when the fam­ily could do so.

They signed a twoyear con­tract with a farmer in Leth­bridge to hoe and har­vest sugar beets. When they ar­rived in Leth­bridge, the farmer picked them up from the train sta­tion and took them home to live in a stor­age shed meant for grain. Olga built an oven out of mud and let it dry and har­den. Af­ter three days, she was able to bake buns and bread. In the day­time, the beds were cov­ered with rain­coats to pro­tect them from the leaky roof.

In fall, the beets were ploughed. The top of each one had to be cut off with a large knife and thrown onto a truck. It was cold, te­dious work, but they pre­vailed.

Two years later, af­ter be­ing thrifty and work­ing at var­i­ous jobs, the fam­ily was able to rent farm­land. They later pur­chased their own land, with all the sib­lings go­ing their own way. By this time, Ed­mund and I were mar­ried, as were his sib­lings. Six of them be­came suc­cess­ful farm­ers and one sis­ter moved to Toronto.

The fam­ily now boasts 20 grand­chil­dren, 29 great-grand­chil­dren and two great-great-grand­chil­dren. The Lord has blessed the Hirch fam­ily and al­lowed them to pros­per.

Ed­mund and Ruby (front row, right) with their large and lov­ing fam­ily to­day; (below) the Hirch fam­ily around 1962; Olga and Daniel Hirch are pic­tured at cen­tre, while Ruby is to the right of Daniel and Ed­mund is fifth from the left in the back row.

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