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Histories – Our Own

“These photos are fabulous!” Mom and I were looking at clear copies of her original family photos, which my brother Arnold had restored.

“This one looks like it was taken in Russia,” I frowned. “Was Grosspa (Abram, my paternal Grandpa) married yet?” (he wasn’t)

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row, before he was married. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.


That photo (left) was taken about 1900.  Nine years later Abram married Margaretha, who gave birth to five sons (including my Dad, John) and two daughters. In 1921, at the age of ten years, little Anna died, leaving an especially big hole for her older sister, Greta.

Late in 1929, Grosspa learned he was on a list for deportation to Siberia, where the family would likely never see him again. Although he was reluctant to leave the flock he pastored, church leaders convinced Grosspa to go. Leaving their village in darkness, he traveled to Moscow, where the family joined him. After four months’ wait, Grosspa’s family of eight was in the last group to be granted exit visas near the end of the Bolshevik Revolution. Eight, among 5000 granted visas; the remaining 10,000 applicants were sent back to their villages, to work camps, to starvation, some to execution.


Mom and I moved on to more recent photos —

  • Mom’s and Dad’s families
  • Dad, probably in his twenties, holding a large fish
  • Mom, in her teens, exiting her father’s barn after milking. Her face is shaded by a large hat, and my grandfather’s overalls are much too long for her.
  • My parents’ wedding, and photos of my immediate family.

Precious, meaningful, leading to questions and conversation.

     How did you feel the day you married Dad?

     Do you know if this couple had a happy marriage?

     Who’s this in the baby buggy?

Last year Arnold, his wife Carol, Don and I, cruised the east coast of the US and Canada. At Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, we watched intently as a staff member pulled up the records of our family’s arrival, in April 1930. Each person’s name and age were listed on the hand-written document. Dad was twelve.

I felt chills as Arnold and I saw the record of Dad's arrival in Canada

I felt chills as Arnold and I saw the record of Dad’s arrival in Canada

Some of his relatives never left the Ukraine, suffering starvation and even execution as a result.

I’m deeply thankful for God’s faithfulness. Somehow, in His grace, my ancestors were spared much of the persecution following that tumultuous time. Two generations later, I was born to that German immigrant from Russia, John Froese, who met and married Helen Kroeker, a pretty Canadian farmgirl with a beautiful soprano voice.

Mom’s and my time together today, looking at old photos, gave me a deeper understanding of my history, and also of my mother. Best of all, it gave Mom and me time to reminisce, reflect, and enjoy each other.

The Old Testament is filled with family stories, both happy and sad, joyful and dysfunctional–sometimes all in the same family. What have you learned from yours?


  1. Karen O'Connor says:

    Carol, this is precious. I remember having similar feelings to yours the moment my feet touched the land of my ancestors–Ireland. And Charles was overjoyed when we saw his grandfather’s home in Switzerland, photos in hand, as we drove up and down the street, so we’d be sure to locate the exact house. Our grandparents arrived in the United States as a result of famine and political persecution but they did make it–and for that we are so grateful. God had plans for them and for us. Praise God for his mercy and kindness.

    1. carolnl says:

      Amen, Karen. I remember how meaningful your Ireland trip was to both you and Charles. Isn’t it amazing that in our generation we can actually visit some of those places that house our history. What a gift from God.

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