Return to Chortitz

The other day, when Andrew and I went to find the gravestones of Schoenweise, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to stop at the nearby Chortitz Heritage Church and Cemetery.

Peering through the Chortitz Church windows.

Even though, as I told Andrew, “we’ve already seen all there is to see.” Still, why not?

Sitting in the new little shelter next to the Chortitz church, where you can sign your name and record your impressions of the site. (Take note of the little oak.)

Also, I thought I’d already posted about this cemetery. But now that I search it, I realize that I have not. I merely intended to post about it. In the meantime, it seems I’ve lost some of the pictures I’d thought I’d use for the post. Sheesh.

Andrew is in this picture. Can you see him?

So, we wandered the grounds. Beautiful time of year to do so!

This church community met in this place for 140 years! (Or, after reading the stone at the cemetery, perhaps just for 136 years?)

Then we ambled across the road to visit the cemetery. This was when things got interesting.

A truck had parked at the cemetery, and we could tell its driver had noticed us snooping around. This made us feel awkward, but we proceeded anyway. He rolled down his window to speak with us. We thought we were in trouble, but it turns out he merely wanted to know if there was anything the caretakers of the cemetery could do to make visitors more comfortable.

I remarked that I always take cemeteries for whatever they are, and I don’t necessarily expect them to be comfy. But after some consideration, we suggested a bench or shelter from the sun might be nice.

He agreed, the cemetery’s one tree did not provide much shade. He mentioned it was an oak. I gasped, and said, “Wait, is that tiny tree descended from the Great Oak of Chortitza?”

He gave me this “well obviously” look, then said, “This is Chortitz.”

Of course!

He indicated across the road, adding, “that one is too.”

The little oak by the shelter next to the church!

I can’t believe this had never occurred to me before. The gentleman told us that he has been tasked with endeavouring to keep the little oak alive, and he’s doing the best he can.

Chortitz Church, and a descendent of the Great Oak of Chortitz.

(I didn’t concern myself with taking a picture of Bishop Gerhard Wiebe’s gravestone because I thought I already had one. Now I can’t find it!)

There are many unmarked graves here. You can kind of see the indentations when it’s freshly mown and the light is just right.

Can you read it? This stone says: “Glory and Honour to the God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ and in Remembrance of those who came to worship in Chortitz according to their Mennonite faith. Led by Altesta (Bishop) Gerhard Wiebe, starting in 1874 and over the next three years about 440 Bergthal Colony families left South Russia to make a fresh start in Manitoba. Loss of military service exemption, external pressures to change their school curriculum and the need for more land were the main reasons for the migration. As part of the migration, the Bergthal Colony Church was transplanted to the new village of Chortitz. It became known as the ‘Mennoniten Gemeinde Zu Chortitz’, later ‘Chortitzer Mennonite Conference’. The first House of Worship was built in 1877 and replaced twenty years later in 1897. Worship services continued until August 29, 2010. At time of closing the local congregation was the oldest fully established Mennonite congregation in western Canada.”

We discovered something else at this site! And so, this is not the end.