Recent History – 1999
July 15, 1999 by Daily News Staff
The 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Sudeten refugees will be celebrated in Tomslake, July 31-August 2. The event will commemorate the arrival of 518 refugees from the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia between April 8 and July 28, 1939. They came here as a result of the Munich Agreement, signed on September 30, 1938, which turned over the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany.
The anti-Nazi Sudeten German Social Democrats became hunted people and had to flee for their lives, leaving behind nearly all of their possessions. Several western European countries gave them temporary asylum until a country could be found overseas that would take the numbers involved. That country turned out to be Canada.
As the colonizing agent, Canadian Pacific Railway sold them land along the line. Some stayed in Ontario and others settled in Saskatchewan on previously-owned farms.
Those who arrived in the Tate Creek-Tupper area settled on the old Gundy Ranch where they originally farmed collectively. They were expected to be farmers, but most had other occupations before coming to Canada.
They led a “harsh but rewarding new life” as they worked the land, and the small log or wood-frame cabins they lived in came to symbolize the early years.
British prime minister Neville Chamberlain said the Munich Agreement would give “peace in our time”, but Hitler continued his aggressive ways. When the Second World War broke out, 46 of the refugees who came here enlisted in the Canadian armed forces to fight in Europe.
Most of the refugees became Canadian citizens as soon as they were allowed to. In 1967, Canada’s centennial year, they built Sudeten Park on donated land and turned it over to the province to show their appreciation for their new country.
The events will begin with a social evening at the Tomslake community hall on July 31, 7 p.m. start. The festivities continue the next day when a pancake breakfast will be held at the hall, 8-10 a.m., and at 11 a.m., a plaque will be unveiled at the museum grounds, accompanied by speeches in English and German.
That’s followed by lunch at the hall, 1 p.m. start. The rest of the afternoon will consist of tours of the museum, library, fire hall and an exhibition soccer game will be held at the hall. A banquet will be held at Sudeten Hall in Pioneer Village, Dawson Creek, 1 p.m. start on August 2.