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The Russländer

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  486 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Katherine (Katya) Vogt is now an old woman living in Winnipeg, but the story of how she and her family came to Canada begins in Russia in 1910, on a wealthy Mennonite estate. Here they lived in a world bounded by the prosperity of their landlords and by the poverty and disgruntlement of the Russian workers who toil on the estate. But in the wake of the First World War, the ...more
Paperback, 397 pages
Published August 20th 2002 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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I was really looking forward to this book but I was rather disappointed by it. The story is very good but I had a hard time getting into the book because of the way it is written. I think it's a shame; it could have been so much better!
Traycee Wiebe
I have now read this book through twice with several years in between readings and I have to say... one of the best books I've ever read. Much of that is due to the fact that the book chronicles the events of a typical Mennonite family living in Russia during this time period. Eventhough most of my family had already left for Canada at this time, I still enjoyed reading about the lifestyle my ancestors would have been living had they never left.

I learned a great deal about the traditions, relati
Minkee Robinson
I very much enjoyed this novel. I am not a huge reader of historical fiction, but found the characters and plot compelling, and the historical aspects of the novel rang true to my limited knowledge. I have great admiration for Sandra Birdsell's ability to craft both setting and plot to create a wonderful novel that I would highly recommend. There is an aspect of mystery that keeps the story moving along even for other readers, like me, who do not normally choose this particular genre as their fi ...more
Linda C
Reading this book was somewhat like gazing at a beautiful still life in a fancy art museum. Beautiful to look at but ultimately boring and you move on. This is how I feel about this book. There were many good things but, in the final analysis, I felt like I was gazing upon Katya's life rather than being immersed in it.

Many parts of the book were very interesting. I had no idea that there were ever Mennonites living in Russia (actually, I believe to be technical, they were living in Ukraine)and i
Colter Smythe
Imagine the darkest scenarios you can imagine, now multiply those by ten and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the living conditions in Russia during the first World War.

Sandra Birdsall's story “The Russlander” is a profound novel focusing on the life of a small Russian girl during the first World War and the rebellion that followed shortly after. The storyline follows Katya and her father, the overseer in a mennonite community, as they adjust to live settling in the Canadian plains. Conflict a
Czarny Pies
Sep 15, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who follows the international news
Recommended to Czarny by: The dustjacket hooked me.
It would be accurate but misleading to say that the Russlander tells the tale of a Mennonite community living in Russia that had to flee to Canada during the immediate aftermath of the Bolchevik revolution. The importance of Sandra Birdsell's book is that using the case of her own community she is able to illustrate what happened to many ethnic minorities living in Russia when the Tsarist system was overthrown. Even importantly it describes what happens wherever there are religious and linguist ...more
David W.
This was a difficult book for me to read, but I kept at it for two reasons.
One is that my friend Janet Armstrong recommended it and she has good taste in books - better than me.
Secondly almost everyone on here who reviewed it LOVED it.
I just found it so slow that it was difficult to keep my interest.
Then I realized why.
My hope was that the book would stop being in Russia and would show the immigration to Canada - specifically Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I had hoped to find out more of the histo
Sally Ito
A stellar, solidly and poignantly told, historical narrative of the Mennonites who lived in Russia at the turn of the century. As I occasionally teach English at a Mennonite university, I like to teach at least one Mennonite novel -- this was a most excellent choice for me, and hopefully for my class.
Jane Glen
Excellent read. This is Russia through the time of the revolution and First World War, focussing on the plight of the Mennonites, as they became the enemy of all, having lost the protection of the tsar. This was when and where my mother grew up and came to Canada in 1923, so for me this was particularly poignant and I felt I had been given some greater insight into my mom's life. How I wish I has asker her more while she was alive, although her time before immigrating was so painful that she rar ...more
Linda Loewen
A semi-fictional account of what happened to many of the German Mennonites who stayed in Russia after the first wave of emigration in the 1870's. Initially about their comfortable lives, even their superiority, and then their treatment and hardships-the hell they endured- after the Revolution. Pretty stark in places.
I read this book just after The Road. I was on holiday, and my husband was pleading with me to get ready, everyone was waiting for us in the lobby, but I just couldn't put the book down and had to finish it before supper! It starts off with meandering memories of a girl and her Mennonite family in Russia, and the community there. There are tensions between her father and the rich Mennonite family that owns the land. But when the Russian revolution starts, life becomes incredibly frightening. It ...more
A very interesting story but I found the writing of it very fragmented & must say left me a bit cold.
This was one of those books that started out SO SLOWLY that I almost stopped reading it a couple times. You have to have some knowledge or at least care a little bit about the Russian Revolution to understand the historical context (I had neither). But once I got into the story and really started to care about the characters, I couldn't put it down. The story of both having and losing family love and romantic love, as well as some of the beautiful backdrops was a huge suprise to come out of a bo ...more
I've been wanting to read this novel for a long time. It deals with the daily lives of a Mennonite family in Russia just before the revolution after which their whole world changes and they must now deal with much suffering and ultimately severe brutality at the hands of anarchists & Bolsheviks. My grandparents were Mennonites who emigrated from Russia during the early 1920's and I wanted to get a better sense of how they lived, what they had to deal with and why they eventually decided to c ...more
Outstanding historic fiction! Birdsell's story of German Mennonites in what was then Russia (now Ukraine) prior to WWI told by an old woman in Canada. Katherine Vogt Heinrichs tells the detail of her childhood that she has up until now avoided telling her children and grandchildren through the war and Revolution. Birdsell manages to capture the innocence of the young Katya and the pain, weariness and simple joy of the grandmother as she looks back after a full life in Canada.
Kathleen McRae
This ia the story of Katya Vogt and her life on a wealthy Mennonite estate in Russia.In the wake of the first world war Russia becomes a communist country amid violent times and through violent events Katya emigrated to Winnipeg .This is her book of memories from her life there and the events that led to her leaving Russia to build her life in another country .Good story with many details of life in Russia at that time in history
An excellent, moving story of the Mennonite people In Russia (now Ukraine) at the time of the revolution. With many friends and relatives of Mennonite antecedents, and having visited villages in the former Molochna and Chortitza Colonies in Ukraine, the book had special meaning for me. I recommend it for anyone interested in Mennonite history or in just a good read about good people in difficult times.
How can you not like a book where everyone gets slaughtered?!

Actually this was not as painful to read as I anticipated - the story was gripping and the historical and cultural aspects were fascinating. It will be really interesting to contrast the Mennonites of this book with those in the next book I'm reading - A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews.
Has there been an ethnic group, religion or culture that has not faced indignity and injustice? This story recounts the horrors faced by Mennonites in Russia in a personal way. Made me wonder how it is that history continues to repeat itself, in one way or another, over and over and over again.
Birdsell writes wonderful prose in this story of Katya, a Mennonite girl who escapes being slaughtered along with most of her other family during World War 1 in pre-communist Russia. I found this book started off rather slowly, but wound up being quite an interesting historical read.
This a sad but moving story about a woman who survived the Russian Revolution when most of her family did not. It is often difficult to read, but told in a gentle way. A great sroty of great courage and the ability to move forward when the world seems to stop.
A rather dour fictionalized account of German Mennonites in Russia. Well written, but very little to offer besides the straitforward narrative of heartship and war in Russia.
I could not get into this book. I read about 50 pages, and then gave up. It was boring, and I didn't care about any of the characters.
Kathy Regehr
Moving story. I see my grandparents in this book. This is very close to their life and why they came to Canda.
75 pages in and the book was not holding my interest at all. I can't even really tell you what happened!
It's true I became impatient in some parts, however overall - it was so good. I cried.
Liked this book. Especially liked the story set in Russia and the persecution there.
Olivia Riddell
It was a bit slow at first, but the last half of the book, crazy intense!!
Mar 06, 2014 Bettie☯ marked it as maybe  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Born in the 1950s - What we've read in 2014
to look into/hunt down

5* from itpdx
Gorgeous book. Loved it!
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Sandra Louise Birdsell (née Bartlette) is a Canadian novelist and short story writer of Métis and Mennonite heritage.

Birdsell was the fifth of eleven children. She lived most of her life in Morris, Manitoba and now lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Birdsell left home at the age of fifteen. At the age of thirty-five, she enrolled in Creative Writing at the University of Winnipeg. Five years later, Turn
More about Sandra Birdsell...
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