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Annie SawatzkyAnnie Sawatzky September 18, 1929—September 24, 2020 Our mother, Annie Sawatzky, was born on September 18, 1929 in Neu-Nicoliev, Ukraine to Jake Abraham Reimer and Anna Dyck Reimer. Her earliest memories were of tough times in the Ukraine. Just after mom was born, her parents sold their house and possessions. They were ready to leave the Ukraine, but Stalin closed the borders and they couldn’t leave. Fortunately, they were able to get some of their possessions back, that they had sold. She started school at the age of six. Students were asked if their families talked about God at home. Mom came from a religious background, but because of religious persecution, God was no longer discussed and church attendance stopped. She recalls her grandfather telling her about God. In 1937, the secret police came, took him away and shot him because he refused to deny his faith. She remembers her grandmother dying a year later from liver cancer. Food was scarce during those times. Her mother knew how to play the political system. She would often invite the officials to their home for a meal. She would take a little extra wheat and bake some bread for them. Of course, this bread was much better than what they could buy at the bakery. The family did not have much, but they did get a few perks from the government officials (they wanted more of that bread). Everything had to be turned over to the government. She recalls that their Red German cow gave more milk and cream than other cows so they were allowed to keep a little extra for their family. Her parents raised sheep, pigs and chickens which produced lots of eggs. They also raised silk worms. Their silk worms always produced the most silk so her mom always got a few extra yards of silk back as her reward. Mom had few toys to play with so she and her siblings played with what they had even if it was a few broken dishes. She did have a doll and a suitcase with doll clothes which she loved playing with. Christmas was always a special time for her. She remembers her parents decorating the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The kids would wake up on Christmas morning and see the tree for the first time. One day they heard that the government officials were coming to take away her father. That night the family moved from their German village to a Russian village. They were able to hide there undetected. It was here that she learned to speak perfect Russian although since she didn’t continue to speak the language, she forgot all that she had learned. The family lived in this village until the Germans took it over. World War II is not something that she liked to talk about. There were lots of horrible memories from this time in her life. She didn’t recall the name of the village, but she did remember having to leave the village and hiding in a cave before the Romanians came and took over the village. They left the cave and returned to living in a house again. The raids on homes continued and when they came to our house my parents told them that we were Germans and they left us alone. In 1943, the Germans invaded the area where they were living. The family was given 24 hours to leave the village. The German army was allowing the German speaking people to retreat to Germany. Mom’s family was glad to have the opportunity to leave the Ukraine. She recalled leaving by horse and buggy. They took bedding, toasted Zwieback, flour and lard that was full of sausages. The lard would keep the sausages from spoiling. They took the horse and buggy to a certain destination and left them there. Her dad made a deal with one of the officials, giving him the horses and buggy in exchange for the train ride to Germany. They boarded a freight train for their trip to Germany. The train ride was a terrible ride, since it was very crowded and standing room only. Upon their arrival in Germany, the family lived in many different refugee camps until the war was over. She recalls the horrors of the bombings and shootings in Germany. The US pilots would swoop down and try to shoot the mailmen, so they couldn’t deliver the mail to our village. She spent most of her early teenage years in the middle of battles and fleeing the bombing raids of the Americans. There is one refugee camp in particular from which she had very distinct memories. It was the year 1945, in Dresden, Germany. The refugee camp was in a castle-like place. Mom was 15 years old at the time. She had to go to school and also work in the camp kitchen. During this time, the family was also caring for mom’s uncle, Henry Dyck, who was 8 years younger than her. It was during this time that her brother sustained some injuries and was taken to a hospital. Her brother was still hospitalized when the Americans and the British bombed Dresden. There are estimates as high as 250,000 who lost their lives during this air raid. Mom’s dad was enlisted to help with the wounded. Her brother remained hospitalized while the rest of the family fled from Dresden. Mom’s mother was also sick at the time, so mom, her mother, sister and her uncle left without her father or brother. They loaded their few possessions on a wagon with mom and Henry pulling the wagon by hand for 25 miles. Months later they were finally reunited with her brother. He had been well cared for and was completely well again. It was time to move to a different location. This time they went by train. While on the train the family met a lady, who lived by the Swiss border, she told them that they could stay with her. The family became separated from her and when they finally arrived at her home there wasn’t any room left for them. This lady helped them find a place to stay. The towns that weren’t decimated by the war had to help provide housing for the homeless. The government would come in and determine how much space your family needed and the remainder of the space was given to homeless families to live in. You weren’t given a choice about taking in strangers. After the war, the family didn’t know where their dad was. They sent a letter to his last known address and the efficient German Postal Service was able to track him down and deliver the letter. After, mom’s dad received the letter and knew where his family was living, he was able to reunite with the family. With the family reunited, it was necessary to move once more. This time they moved to Allterstrid, Germany. It was in Allterstrid that her parents found a partially burned Bible laying in the street. The Holy Spirit was at work and as a result of reading God’s Word, her parents came under conviction, accepting Christ as their Savior and were baptized. It was in Allterstrid that they became acquainted with the Mennonite Brethren Church. Mom was now 16 years old and probably being a very typical teenager would only attend church on special occasions since it was quite a distance to travel to attend church. In Allterstrid mom again had a chance to attend school. She attended Mädchenschule (girl’s school). Mom remembers wanting to become a children’s nurse. In the summer, she worked in the cheese factory with her dad. In Allterstrid, they were introduced to Mennonite Central Committee and their efforts to help people immigrate to Paraguay, the United States and Canada. From Allterstrid, they moved on to the MCC refugee camp in Backnang, Germany. Mom was now 18 years old and it was in Backnang that she accepted the Lord and was baptized in a public swimming pool on August 18, 1949. It was here that mom’s life would forever be changed. There was a young man by the name of Gerhard Sawatzky, also in the camp. As he was walking around the camp, this young lady, Annie Reimer, caught his eye. Mom wasn’t so sure about the guy with the dark curly hair. Mom and dad attended a wedding of one of their friends who lived in the Camp. When the bride threw the bouquet, mom caught it and dad caught the boutonniere. The custom was that they had to each sit in a chair. The chairs were lifted up and then they had to kiss. This was the first time that mom and dad kissed. Mom had second thoughts when she found out dad was seven years older, but after getting to know him she changed her mind. Dad and mom dated while in the refugee camp. Dad was quite the romantic. He would give mom only half a chocolate bar at a time. This way she would have to spend time with him again if she wanted the other half. The family lived in the camp in Backnang, Germany for 10 months. During these 10 months, mom’s parents were working with MCC to get immigration paperwork processed for immigration to another country. In order for mom’s family to immigrate to America, needed a sponsor family. Her dad knew that an aunt had immigrated to Uruguay, Paraguay, or somewhere in North America. He put a letter in the Mennonitsha Rundschau, a German Mennonite publication. He mentioned his aunt’s name and possible locations. The Rogalsky family in Reedley, California, recognized the name of the aunt which was also their aunt and realized that they must all be related. The Rogalsky family was also poor but decided to sponsor mom’s family. On Thursday, April 14, 1949 mom’s family left for America. Her dark curly haired boyfriend left on Thursday, October 13, 1949 for Coaldale, Alberta Canada. The International Refugee Organization paid for passage on the ship and the Rogalsky’s paid for the train ride. Her parents paid the Rogalsky’s back for the train ride, when they had money to do so. The family arrived in Boston on April 24, 1949 and after being processed by the American Government, boarded a train for a long trip, arriving in Reedley on Thursday, May 12, 1949. Mom’s first job was picking cherries and she ate more than she picked. She also chopped cotton, picked grapes and worked in a drive-in. As the result of lots of hard work the family was eventually able to purchase a home and eventually a farm. Mom and this young man continued to keep in contact through letters. Dad sent her a letter asking her to marry him and of course she accepted. Mom moved to Coaldale, Alberta Canada and on January 7, 1951 they were married. Dad had worked hard to purchase a lot and build a small 800 sq. ft. home. It wasn’t much, but it was theirs. Mom became the master of making everything from potatoes. Potato pancakes, fried potatoes, boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, because potatoes were inexpensive. Her kitchen cabinets were wooden apple boxes. Mom and dad loved each other and wanted children. In December of 1951 George was born, followed by Richard in April 1953 and Ken in September 1957. After writing many letters back and forth with her parents an opportunity presented itself for mom and dad to move to California. In June of 1958, they moved to California. With the help of mom’s parents, they were able to purchase a 10-acre farm on Road 40 about ½ mile north of Kings River Elementary School. Mom and dad raised 10,000 fryer chickens and farmed 6 acres of grapes for raisins. Mom worked hard, keeping the house clean, growing a garden, canning, cleaning chickens that dad would butcher. She sewed her dresses and many of our shirts. Often, us three boys would have matching shirts. It didn’t seem to matter how poor we were, we always had suits to wear to church on Sunday. She made sure that we were dressed well. Mom was always involved in Sewing Circle and worked with Pioneer Girls at the Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church. Mom was a great cook and love to bake. Mom love to bake cookies for people. Mom loved having couples over that they were responsible for as Deacons. She and dad faithfully served as Deacons for 26 years. In 1965, mom and dad purchased a 20-acre ranch just a few miles west of Dinuba, California. Raising chickens was now history. It was time to concentrate on growing grapes for raisins. Mom always worked hard on the farm. She would tie vines, pick grapes, turn trays, roll trays and help with boxing raisins. One thing she really struggled with was driving the tractor when we boxed raisins. Dad would be on the trailer yelling out wo! Mom would hear “GO” and give the tractor gas to speed up. She would rather be on the trailer getting hit by trays flying at her than to have to drive that cursed tractor. It was sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s that mom went to work at Palm Haven as a cook. She just loved cooking meals from scratch and making the residents feel like they were getting a home cooked meal. It was also during this time that she learned to drive and got her driver’s license In 1977, the first grandchild was born. This was a highlight for mom. She loved being a grandma. Giving kids candy and baking goodies for them. She and dad attended many sporting events, concerts, school plays and supporting their grandchildren whenever possible. Mom and dad would babysit the grandkids whenever they had a chance. They loved having them around. Mom was especially excited when there were finally some granddaughters born into the family. Since she had wanted a girl, but God only blessed her with boys. After three grandsons were born, to have the next two be girls was such a delight for her. Dad and Mom also had opportunity to travel. As a family, there were trips to Canada to visit family and sightseeing. These were trips to Winnipeg, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Minnesota. There was one trip where dad drove from home to Salt Lake City in one day. Wow, it was hot, no air conditioning, three kids, but we sure had fun. It was always special to watch Dad and his brothers and sisters greet each other. There was such love between them. Dad and Mom also took cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, and the Panama Canal. There was also a trip to Germany. In 2003, dad and mom finally sold the farm. The work was becoming too difficult for dad. Dad’s Parkinson’s disease was really beginning to take its toll on his body. It was hard for dad to give up the farm, but he knew he needed to. Dad and mom built a new home in Reedley and moved into their new home in March of 2004 and lived there until September of 2010. In September of 2010, they moved into an apartment at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community. Dad’s health continued to decline and he needed more and more help. Mom faithfully cared for him taking care of all of his needs which took a toll on her own health. In October 2011, mom needed to have hernia surgery which required dad to move into the Residential Care facility. After three weeks, it was necessary to move him into skilled nursing care. Mom faithfully fed him twice a day and got him ready for bed each night. She was a faithful wife to dad until the end. Mom had her own health issues. There were numerous surgeries to try to correct some stomach issues that she struggled with. Her eyesight also was not very good. Dad was very patient with mom. He took her to many Dr. appointments and supported her in every way trying to find solutions to the health issues that she was struggling with. On July 4, 2019 mom fell and broke 4 ribs and her tibial plaque. She spent 18 days at Regional Community Medical Center in Fresno. Most of that time was in ICU. She was then transferred to Sierra View Homes and placed into Skilled Nursing. The staff worked tirelessly with her in rehabilitation. Mom became the model patient in rehab. She worked hard and in October of 2019 she was able to move back into her apartment and live independently. This was a real blessing for mom. She loved going back to visit the nurses in Skilled Nursing. She would bake them her famous sour cream cookies. The staff loved when she would bring them over. She was able to continue making perischki and noodles for her family. This last summer she had all of her boys and their spouses over for and evening meal. She had made veranika and said that this was her last veranika dinner and it was a good one. We all were able to take left overs home. The last 14 months mom’s health slowly and steadily declined. In April, she had a bleeding ulcer and in June another trip to the ER. She was developing blisters on her legs from fluid that was caused by insufficient blood flow back to her heart. On September 10th she had her last procedure to try and solve some of these blood flow issues. She developed complications due as a result of the procedure and stated that she was done having procedures. She had been praying diligently for the past 14 months to God, asking Him to take her home to be with Him. Mom was very aware of what was going on with her body. On September 18th she celebrated her 91st birthday in Residential Care at Sierra View Homes. On September 24, 2020 at 9:48 she breathed her last breath and was ushered into eternity to Live Forever with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Mom has moved for the last time. She is truly HOME! Her mansion in Heaven was completed and ready for her. In John 14: 1-4 Jesus tells us to not let our heart be troubled. He instructs us to believe in God and in Him. It tells us that there are many mansions in His Father’s House. He also promises us that He’s going to prepare a place for us so that we can be where He is. So today mom is HOME! Mom you will be greatly missed. Your family loves you dearly. With the words of the Apostle Paul in II Timothy 4:6-8 mom could say: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. Mom is survived by her three sons. George and wife Marcia, Richard and wife Lavone, Ken and wife Martha, eight grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren with one on the way. She is also survived by her sister Gretel Warkentin, brother Jake Reimer and wife JoEllen and a whole bunch of nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her loving husband Gerhard (George) Sawatzky of 62 years, her grandson Marc Sawatzky, brother-in-law Jake Warkentin and her parents Jake and Anna Riemer. We, as a family, would like to thank Dr. Gary Mimura for your patience in caring for our mom for all the years that she was your patient. You have given her excellent care and for that we are extremely grateful. Our family truly appreciates you! We are also grateful for the Sierra View Homes Retirement and Care Facility. The administration, nursing staff, office staff, maintenance staff for your care of our mom during the past 10 years. We would like to thank Ro Linscheid, Jenny Penner, Crystal Rogalsky for your leadership in assisting us with making decisions during the last 10 days of our mom’s life here on earth. Mom had truly fallen in love with this place and was so very thankful that she and dad had moved here in 2010. Our family is grateful for the care that you provide for the elderly, but especially for the care that you provided for both of our parents during the end of their lives!
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