Coming to Canada
A tale of two families who achieved prosperity in Canada through grace and hard work
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.
AT LONG LAST
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.