Steppes Are the Colour of Sepia, The: A Mennonite Memoir

The Steppes are the Colour of Sepia

The Steppes Are the Colour of Sepia

A Mennonite Memoir

by Connie Braun


  • Autumn 2008
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-063-7
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 260 pages
  • Memoir, History

The Steppes Are the Colour of Sepia: A Mennonite Memoir invites the reader to embark on a journey that traces the paths of ancestral memory over the steppes of the Russian empire to the valleys of Canada’s Fraser River. Connie Braun’s narrative continues where Sandra Birdsell’s historical fiction Russlander has left off – back to the catastrophic events of twentieth-century Europe.

Braun intimately ushers us into the life of one extended Mennonite family, and in particular the life of her father and grandfather, living under the terror of Stalin, and later, under the military expansion of Hitler’s Nazi Lebensraum in the Ukraine. In the vein of Janice Kulyk Keefer’s memoir Honey and Ashes: A Story of Family and Anne Michaels’ Fugitive Pieces, Braun gives voice to the narrative of dispossession.

In a memoir that is historically faithful to documents, letters, old photographs and personal testimony, Braun offers a lyrical second-generation witness to her family members and to all other Canadians who have suffered displacement in history’s disasters, and whose obscure stories must be told. In doing so, she honours the spirit of resilience embodied by the refugees who have created and transformed Canadian society.

“Connie Braun’s memoir is a remarkable and readable account of Soviet Communism of the early twentieth century not only as an event in world history, but as a crisis that continued to unfold for generations in her family and her personal life. This book combines memory and history, intimate tales passed down in time and accounts of those who, like her, have been forced to come to terms with subversion and displacement, down to the present day.”
— John Bentley Mays

“Connie Letkeman Braun offers an evocative but not sentimental portrayal of tragedy and courage that shapes her own ancestral story.”
— Marlene Epp, author of Women without Men: Mennonite Refugees of the Second World War

“Connie Braun’s language is beguiling; the narrative compelling.”
— Claudia Cornwall, author of Letter from Vienna: A Daughter Uncovers Her Family’s Jewish Past



The Steppes Are the Colour of Sepia consistently amazes and amuses readers with numerous examples of Letkemann’s irrepressible energy, audacity and charm. . . . a moving testament to the plight of all people who have been dispossessed by antagonistic forces outside their control.”
Vancouver Sun

The Steppes Are the Colour of Sepia tells an engrossing tale, and makes a worthy contribution to the contribution and understanding of the Mennonite diaspora of the last century.”
The Conrad Grebel Review

“The gift of this engaging book is that [Braun] joins scholars and historians in who have recently begun to help to create ground that remembers. . . . This book reminds us of the fragility of faith and freedom.”
The Winnipeg Free Press

“Braun brings three extrordinary gifts to this tale . . . passion and love of language . . . a thorough comprehension of the relevant works of Russian and Canadian Mennonite history . . . conscientious detective work — uncovering deeply repressed and thus scantly recorded memories.”
Mennonite Quarterly Review

“a spell-binding story . . . I thank Connie Braun for her labour of love in Steppes”

“Braun offers a lyrical first-generation witness to all those who have suffered displacement in history’s disasters and whose obscured stories must be told.”
Rural Roots