This article was originally published by The Mennonite

CMU Press launches book about Mennonite woman’s refugee experience

Photo: Hedy Leonora Martens it the author of a new historical novel published by CMU press, To and From Nowhere.

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) Press is proud to announce the publication of its latest title, To and From Nowhere, written by Winnipeg author Hedy Leonora Martens.

In this gripping novel, protagonist Greta Enns and her family struggle to exist in the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1976 after being displaced by Stalin along with thousands of Russian Germans, Mennonites and other ethnic groups.

“I hope this book will help readers enter into the lives of people who become refugees,” Martens says, adding that it wasn’t just Mennonites that Stalin displaced.

“Many nationalities were exiled, torn from their homes; some of them never to return. They were wiped off the map as if they never existed, which is why the book is called To and From Nowhere.”

Greta was a real person who belonged to Martens’ extended family.

Based on historical research and interviews with Greta and her family, To and From Nowhere tells a harrowing and2015-11-30 To and From Nowhere [01] beautiful story in the unusual style that Martens has crafted, combining narrative, biography, poetry, history and personal reflection.

To and From Nowhere is the conclusion of a two-part project that began with the publication of Martens’ 2010 novel, Favoured Among Women, which the Winnipeg Free Press called a “detailed and touching portrait of a Mennonite woman during the harsh early years of Soviet Russia.”

Dr. Sue Sorensen, Associate Professor of English at CMU, served as editor for both Favoured Among Women and To and From Nowhere.

Sorensen calls the new book unique and adds that readers will gain insight into history—especially war—and at the same time be moved by the details of a real family’s day-to-day existence.

“In addition to that, you are drawn into the author’s process as she herself comments on her interactions with the material she is writing about,” Sorensen says. “There’s a beautiful resonance to all these different voices and writing styles living side-by-side in the book.”

Sorensen adds that Martens has a gift for bringing characters to life. “Because of Hedy’s skill I felt like I also had met Greta,” she says.

“Hedy has provided an invaluable contribution by bringing to view the experience of particular characters, allowing us to both witness and imagine some of the experiences which enable us to deepen our own understanding of historical circumstances, personal encounters, struggles of faith and so on,” says Dr. Paul Doerksen, general editor of CMU Press. “While the book focuses on particularities, nonetheless it has the capacity to speak to a reading audience that is much broader than any single ethnic or religious group.”

Martens, a retired family therapist, recently celebrated her 80th birthday. She is looking forward to the December 7 book launch after working on Greta’s story for three decades. “It feels really good to have completed this,” she says.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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