By Barry Dyck
The Last Objectors
Usually once a year the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) Auxiliary stages a Film Night as a fundraising event for our museum. These films typically cover a particular aspect of Russian Mennonite history. The next such event will take place on Thursday, April 6, at 7:00 p.m. in the MHV Auditorium.
The Last Objectors is a 45-minute documentary film written and produced by Andrew Wall, with input by Conrad Stoesz and Korey Dyck from the Mennonite Heritage Centre. This venture was a collaboration between Refuge 31 Films, the CBC, MTS Stories from Home, and the Mennonite Heritage Archives, with financial support ($36,000 grant) from Heritage Canada through the World Wars Commemoration Fund. It has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Film Documentary at the 2017 Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival and Best Documentary at the 2016 Views of the World Music and Film Festival in Montreal.
This film tells the story of more than 11,000 conscientious objectors who resisted engaging in armed combat during World War II and rather chose to perform alternative service for their country. Many of these men spent several years working in hospitals, asylums, forestry camps and various other service locations. They were required to donate much of their pay to the Red Cross.
Angeline Schellenberg provides further information in an MB Herald article: “Since October 2015, Wall has interviewed more than 15 COs from Ontario to B.C. During WWII, these men did everything from working in mental hospitals to building roads. A few are Hutterite and United Church members; most are Mennonites. [. . .] Some interviews were highly personal: about how CO service affected them and their families. Other segments contained deep theological reflection.”
In a column on the Mennonite Church Canada website, writer Deborah Froese quotes Korey Dyck, Director of MHC Archives and Gallery, as stating, “The Last Objectors acknowledges these men’s experiences as both important and valid. [. . .] For some, this is their only chance to tell their story about serving Canada in a peaceful way during the Second World War.”
As reported in an earlier column, eight Southern Manitoba COs attended the unveiling of a new cairn commemorating conscientious objectors here at MHV in November 2016. While none of them spoke publicly at that event, this film records segments of interviews with these men and reveals the sentiments behind their profoundly difficult decisions many years ago. Hearing the perspectives of these and other COs can lead to reflection on one’s own values.
Admission to view The Last Objector on April 6 is just $12. The evening will also include stories from the perspectives of women who had to manage at home in the absence of husbands, sons, and brothers; a music segment; and refreshments and conversation to close the event. Opportunity will also be given to make donations. Come for an evening of thought-provoking stories from a portion of our Mennonite history.
Calendar of Events:
March 28: 7:30 PM – Annual General Meeting
April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service
April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night, The Last Objectors
April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation
May 6: Mini Conference, Food, Family and Spirituality