Fonds Vol. 4232-4234, 3972-3973 - Bargen Letter Collection

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Bargen Letter Collection

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CA MHCA Vol. 4232-4234, 3972-3973

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  • 1930-1974 (Creation)

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Physical description

40 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

The letters in this collecton were written by Mennonites in the Soviet Union. They were written by family and friends of Franz Bargen (1894-1976) and his wife Liese (Regehr) Bargen (1897-1976), who had immigrated to Canada in 1930 and settled at Carlyle, Saskatchewan and later moved to Winnipeg. This letter collection was stored in a cardboard Campbell's Soup box, which was moved from attic to attic until 1989, when their son Peter Bargen (1922-2004) and his wife Anne (Peters) Bargen (1925-1997) found them and set out to translate and publish them. (See the 1992 publication entitled "From Russia With Tears: Letters from Home and Exile, 1930-1938" in the Mennonite Historical Library at Canadian Mennonite University). The main body of this collection sorted, arranged and translated by Peter and Anne Bargen was deposited at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archive in 1992.

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Custodial history

The self-published book with 461 translated letters (549 pp) and the accompanying originals were donated to the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives by Peter and Anne Bargen of Winfield, BC in June 1992. Letters from the post-World War II period, a CD with translations of the "post-war" letters, and some original travel documents belonging to Franz & Liese Bargen were donated in June 2004 by Peter Bargen's son, Neil Bargen of Edmonton.

Scope and content

This collection of letters is divided into two sections -- over 500 letters written between 1930-1938 and almost 800 letters written between 1939-1977, covering especially the post-World War II period and up to the early 1970s. There is also one file containing family travel documents for Franz and Liese Bargen's immigration to Canada in 1930.

The letters written between 1930 and 1938 present a cross section of the experiences of over 30 families -- relatives of Franz and Liese Bargen. The letters originate in Sagradowka (a Mennonite settlement in Ukraine) and from families in exile. Letters to and from family outside the forced-labour camps operated by Joseph Stalin were the lifeline for many prisoners during this time of terror. The writers of the letters knew the risks of making contact with "the West" -- prison or execution, yet the letters continued to arrive in Canada through circuitous and covert routes. The Bargen family responded with letters, money and packages, knowing that much material would not reach its destination.

Each item in the Bargen Letter Collection is numbered for easy reference. The post-war letters are not totally sorted as the earlier ones. The "pre-war" letters have also been digitally reproduced by the MHC staff in 2005.

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no restrictions to access

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Finding aids

Inventory file list available

Online version of finding aid available at:,%20Peter%20collection.htm

Associated materials

Related material: From Russia with Tears: Letters from Home and Exile, 1930-1938, by Anne Bargen (Trans.) and Peter Bargen (Ed.) (1992)

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Language of material note

German in Gothic script

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  • English

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