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She and two friends would do neither and they were banned from all further study in the Soviet paradise. They left their families and went underground in Moscow where Mia had a sister working in the Embassy of Finland who provided access to food coupons. That kept them alive for the winter while they considered their diminishing options.

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The borders to the West and South had become impenetrable — but there were rumors that people were escaping through China. They were aware of some Mennonite communities in the region so went to the local market to listen for accents and voices. They located some low-German Mennonites who hid them in their empty wagons and took them back to hide in their village near the Amur River that bordered Manchuria.

Escape was not easy but escapes were taking place in small groups across the river with the help of Chinese human smugglers.

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They hid among the sand dunes and survived on the island in spite of Soviet guards. During the crossing one of the Chinese guides panicked and climbed onto the raft which promptly capsized. My mother was in deep trouble and another young man with the last name of Copper rescued her — years later I was able to visit him in a village in Paraguay and offered him my gratitude. Arrival on the Chinese side of the Amur was not an occasion marked by any papers or official action — they were in one of the most remote corners of China after the end of Empire and before the Japanese invasion — they were on their own.

Taking her advice they left their local hostel where they shared a sleeping platform with half of China and walked into China in the middle of the night. The Russian woman was waiting for them at the edge of town with a package of food and her blessing and these three twenty-something young women walked into the Chinese night. The next part of the story always remained a little vague in their various biographies.

My mother did acknowledge verbally but not in her autobiography that at one point they were taken or captured by a local Chinese leader of undetermined local power who claimed that since they were unattached they would be his concubines. When their captor asked if they were married they apparently pointed wordlessly at the young men who had heard of their predicament and who had arrived to claim them. Mia told us that it was as close as she ever came to a lie!


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Who knows the truth — something happened that they chose not to write about or at least limit the truth. There were in fact three counterpart young men who had participated in the plans to escape during the winter in Moscow. In the end they had felt that taking three young women with them would be too dangerous and complicating and had ventured on their own — leaving their girlfriends behind. It happened that the men had a much more harrowing journey and on their eventual arrival in Harbin — the destination of every escapee — they were in terrible shape and were nursed back to health by the young women they had abandoned.

Tragically — one of the couples decided to marry in China but the groom became sick on the wedding day and died within days. The ship had to use parts of the Amur river that were in Russia to avoid the sand bars so the women were rather nervous until the ship finally turned south and deeper into China! They reportedly hid in the cargo hold during the times when the ship ventured into Russian waters.

In Harbin they worked as nurses to the arriving refugees while they considered the next move. They could not be aware that they were within months of the invasion of Manchuria by Japan. Many groups complain of discrimination during this period in that they were denied entry by Western countries — but this was an almost universal condition. A group of conservative Mennonites had left Canada a few years earlier and had settled in the very heart of this desolate place that had resisted all attempts at settlement by Europeans for centuries. Conditions were challenging, the death rate was high and if they emigrated there they would face a grim future of working in the fields to carve a living out of this desolation.

They decided that they had not risked so much to become farming pioneers in such a desolate and intellectually sterile place and planned a more daring adventure. They took a boat to Yokohama in Japan and then a ship to San Francisco — without any papers whatsoever. On arrival they were predictably interned on Angel Island — the immigrant counterpart of Alcatraz in the same Bay. Fortunately a man from the Salvation Army was regularly scouring this immigrant prison to see what kind of human flotsam might be washing ashore. He sensed that these women might have a future given their abilities and youth if he could find a place in some College or University.

He managed to arrange a. All three went on to graduate degrees and all of them became university professors. My mother earned her third degree at the University of Minnesota and became a professor of German literature. I was to grow up us as a child listening to the usual German fairy tales punctuated with an appropriate amount of Schiller and Goethe. I was raised in a community where our neighbors shared this German-speaking Russian Mennonite heritage and that resulted in a Kindergarten operated completely in German — as was our local congregation.

She had not been told that 5 year-olds could not read or write so we were taught to read and write German — but she used the Gothic script! As a result our class of Kindergarten grads was later accommodated by the local public school in that we had a special class and teacher who taught us in German and in Gothic until Christmas — then we made the transition to the English language and the Latin script.

This was taking multiculturalism to an extreme! Mother survived initially through the charity of Colleges and friends and managed to support her parents in Siberia during years when contact was still possible. This ended with the purges of She had a compelling personal story and was asked by churches, service clubs and University-arranged audiences to share her story — which would result in a gift of cash or in kind.

This allowed her to complete University and provide parental support — in the middle of the Great Depression! The University would arrange her speaking tours — she told us that she had accumulated news clippings of about presentations — many to Russian-interest groups. This was to haunt her after she emigrated. US immigration reportedly kept her album of news clippings. In when the young family had stabilized we made our first trip as tourists to the USA.

Whoever had scanned her clippings had not been able to distinguish the difference between talking about her dramatic escape from Communism to supporting Communism.

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The record was finally cleared in and our family could enjoy all of North America. My mother had actually been an American citizen but was never bitter about this part of her treatment by US authorities — she remained grateful for the haven and the opportunity of her arrival from China. A decade later I would enter the US for University studies.

These were the sixties — a time of idealism and transition and a great time to be a student. After marching with Martin Luther King on the epic Selma-Montgomery adventure and participating in many anti-war or anti-violence events I managed to attract the attention of the FBI. This resulted in the loss of my security clearance in Canada and with that the loss of my appointment to the Canadian Diplomatic Service.

My mother was actually rather proud of the fact that at least my values were noticed! She was rather inventive in these kind of situations. During the thirties she would frequently travel to Canada to visit her brother and sister. Mother had several opportunities to marry educated Americans but somehow felt that she wanted to live closer to the kind of community she had known in her youth.

With the outbreak of WWII American University authorities had the brilliant idea that closing German Departments would somehow aid the war effort and she lost her appointment. She decided on further studies and at that point met my father. His family had reached Canada via Mexico in and as a poor immigrant he managed to learn English and complete Grade It was a Sunday and his hosts were aware of several German-speaking women at church and invited them for Sunday lunch.

Although she was two years his senior they had met as children and now their paths would cross as a random event on the opposite side of the world. My father had traversed Europe, the Atlantic and Mexico to Canada and mother had traversed Siberia, China and the Pacific to the USA — now they would meet in a manner that can only be considered as destiny! Mia was a person of strong character and discipline.

She had spent a decade where she had experienced intellectual challenge and had participated fully in modern society. She drove a car, wore lipstick and attended movies — all of which were frowned upon in the conservative immigrant community she joined by marrying my father. She had made a choice to live in community and managed to refuse to be dominated by these restrictions although she lived within them.

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The frie. She hires Jason Duffy, a year-. Just released out after 30 years of solitary confinement, Phillip is a mentally troubled and lost ex-con. His lawyer, David Thompson, and his family want to help.