January 27th is Family Literacy Day, the perfect time to read Ursula (Pankow) Delfs’ story of her family.
To a Brighter Future, published in 2003, began as a personal project to continue the preservation of family history for future generations. It became a record of wartime events and life on the Canadian homestead that is internationally available. You can find it on Amazon.ca, .com and .uk, as well as at Barnes and Noble and Chapters. And of course you can find it through Spirit River’s library.
Using letters and journals left by her parents, Ursula compiled the story of their immigration to Canada between the World Wars and their struggle to find a new home and a brighter future for their children here in the Peace Country near Woking. She translated these writings from German so that we could all appreciate her roots and thus our own.
Then Ursula’s own memories enrich the tale of the passing years: one room school houses, community dances, and enduring poverty during the depression (although children didn’t necessarily know they were poor). Of course there was hardship and tragedy too: illness and accidents were serious matters on a prairie homestead.
Some of the most poignant passages in the book are those taken from Ursula’s father’s journal, written while he was interned in a prison of war camp, first in the Kananaskis country, and then out of the province. Taken from his young family, this new Canadian was unable for several years to forge toward that brighter future. But his wife wrote weekly letters with news of everyday home life to cheer him and remind him that the future was never far away.
The frustrations, desires, and feelings of community, roots, and ambition are familiar to the people of the Peace Country, and the sense of adventure, endurance and precariousness make this an interesting read for anyone. History buffs in Spirit River and area may recognize the people and locations mentioned – there are lots of photographs to illustrate the events.
When writing To a Brighter Future, Ursula hoped to inspire others to wonder at their own history. What better message could be given on Family Literacy Day? Enjoy it, no matter how you decide to recognize it. Maybe you’ve read Ursula’s book and would like to post a review at Amazon.ca!
Do you know any local authors or some interesting Spirit River history? Please let Town Spirit help celebrate:) Email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.