Hot topic in the archives

Research intern views historic Russian Mennonite refugee story through lens of contemporary Central American migration

From 1943–1945, thousands of Mennonite refugees attempted to escape the Soviet Union for the West in a migration known as the Great Trek. PHOTO: MAID CMBS NP128-01-20

From 1943–1945, thousands of Mennonite refugees attempted to escape the Soviet Union for the West in a migration known as the Great Trek. PHOTO: MAID CMBS NP128-01-20

“In the news today, we often hear about migration and refugees as a crisis or a matter of national security [for the host country],” says Andrew Brown, the 2016 Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies archival intern. “But when we Mennonites talk about our ancestral migration stories, they are framed as fleeing violence, overcoming unimaginable struggles or prospering in our new country.”

Before embarking on a five-week Historical Commission-sponsored internship with the four North American archives (Abbotsford, B.C.; Fresno, Cal.; Hillsboro, Kan.; Winnipeg) in June 2016, the Canadian Mennonite University student had participated on a Mennonite Central Committee learning tour on migration issues in Mexico, Guatemala and Arizona.

“My experiences influenced my research during the internship,” says Brown. He began asking: How has the Mennonite migration story impacted how we engage with refugees and immigrants? How does our story relate to the larger story of migration around the world?

Archival intern Andrew Brown, deep in documentation.

Archival intern Andrew Brown, deep in documentation.

“The goal of my project was to present the stories that I had collected from the Russian Mennonite migrations, provide some historical background and analysis of the migration era, and at the very end to tie it into our modern experience of migration and refugees,” says Brown. “Hopefully, it can provide a lens to view our work with immigrants and refugees today.”

 

Read Brown’s daily internship blog posts: mbhcarchivalinternship.wordpress.com/

Download his final report: mbhcarchivalinternship.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/the-russian-mennonites-and-the-global-migration-story.pdf 

See also www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/potluck-plate-full-mennonite-cultures/

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