by Adele Dueck
Nettie Pauls tells her granddaughter of her life in a Mennonite village in Eastern Europe during and after WWI.
An old woman tells her granddaughter the story of her life in a Mennonite village in Ukraine - from the dangers of World War I and the Russian Revolution to their escape to Canada.
The story of Nettie Pauls, told to her granddaughter in present-day Saskatchewan, is a marvellous distillation of a turbulent period in European history. It begins with the wedding of Nettie's older sister, Liese, in what is now western Ukraine. Elsewhere in Europe, war rages, but it seems far away. Liese gives Nettie a hand-sewn diary, and the diary entries become starting points for chapters of Nettie' story.
Nettie's world changes forever as the Russian Revolution brings the war close to home. The village is visited and often plundered by a bewildering array of armies. Young men are torn between Mennonite principles of non-violence and the need to protect their families. In the end, Nettie's family, along with many other Mennonites, make the long journey out of eastern Europe to the new world.
Hard times of famine and terror, the relief of escape from oppression, moments of kindness and humanity - all are part of this powerful story. Nettie Pauls is an engaging heroine, as clear and compelling as if she stood before us today. And her story helps contemporary kids understand some of the reasons people left Europe to make a new life in Canada.
Coteau Books has made Nettie's Journey available in alternate formats in cooperation with NNELS.