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New Threinen book: Landestreu, an Odyssey

August 25, 2017 2 Comments

by Mathew Block

Rev. Dr. Norman J. Threinen, professor emeritus of Concordia Lutheran Seminary (Edmonton) has recently released his latest book, Landestreu, An Odyssey: The Story of a Family over Time (available from Friesen Press). In this work, Threinen recounts the story of his own ancestors, tracing their journey from Germany in the late 18th century first to Galacia (in what is today Ukraine), and then, more than a century later, to Canada.

While the book focuses especially on Threinen’s own family, the journey is one that countless Germans undertook in the late 1700s. In 1772, Austria, Prussia, and Russia annexed and divided part of Poland, subsequently inviting hardworking Germans to settle in these underdeveloped territories. In exchange for leaving their homelands, the Germans were granted freedom to keep their faith, large lots of farm land, and the promise of a brighter future.

Dr. Threinen is a noted historian on Lutheranism in Canada, and his typical depth of research shines through in this work. But the book is more than just a historical study; it blends history together with narrative, drawing readers into the story of Magnus Nabass and his wife as they make their way to their new home in Galacia. We travel with them by wagon from their home in southwest Germany to the city of Ulm, where they board a ship to Vienna, Austria. From Vienna, we follow their journey to Lemberg (modern-day Lviv, Ukraine), before we come at last to the new village of Landestreu. In the end, Magnus and his family travelled nearly 1,200 kms, as the crow flies, from their home in Germany—a journey which took more than half a year to complete.

In Landestreu, the family put down roots that would last for several generations. And although frontier life was hard, it was also rewarding. The land bore fruit in its season—as did the family. Children were born. Marriages were celebrated. Through it all, a steady faith supported the German settlers.

The same faith would follow several citizens of Landestreu as they later moved to settle other land in Bukovina. Among them was another Threinen ancestor—Philipp Brandt. And when Bukovina would prove unsatisfactory as a long-term home, Brandt and family would immigrate to Canada, spurred by the prospect of good, affordable land. There they would settle with other German families in a new Landestreu, in what is today Saskatchewan.

The heart of this community of settlers was not a town but a church—a Lutheran fellowship grounded in faith and worship. Here it is that Threinen’s ancestors would finally all come together, the completion of a century-long odyssey from Landestreu to Landestreu.

The book draws to a close with the conclusion of World War I. But, as Threinen notes, the story does not end there. “From the community, many have gone forth to make their contribution to the country and to the world,” he writes. Indeed, we in Lutheran Church–Canada are particularly indebted to the people of Landestreu, as the congregation there served as a sort of mother church for further expansion of the Lutheran faith in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Landesteu, An Odyssey is a lively read which draws the audience in and brings history to life. And while it is the story of one particular family, its account of faith, family, and immigration is one that many readers will find parallels stories of their own. Some may even be inspired to dig deeper into their own family history, that they may better understand and honour their forebears—just as Threinen has honoured his in this book.

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Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran and communications manager for Lutheran Church–Canada.

  • Dennis Kendel

    My paternal grandfather was born in Landestreu, Austria on June 17, 1887. When he was 14 years old he emigrated with his parents to Canada, arriving in Langenburg, Saskatchewan on October 2, 1901. On November 25, 1910 he was married to Margaret Mensch by Pastor Paul Wiegner in the Hoffental Lutheran Church. Her family originated from Nevfantal, Russia and emigrated to Canada from Landestreu.
    Their first-born child, Alfred Kendel, was my father. With volunteer help from many farmers in the rural area surrounding Hoffental, he organized the construction of an impressive new church for the Hoffental congregation which still stands today though it is no longer a place of active worship.
    When active ministry at Hoffental was discontinued, my parents transferred their membership to the Landestreu Lutheran Church, the most proximate active rural parish. In doing so, their life came full circle to the name-sake of their family origins in Landestreu, Austria.

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