Writing the Hutterite story

Local writer Mary-Ann Kirkby received a $3,750 grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to help her research and write a book about Hutterites. (Photo courtesy Mary-Ann Kirkby)

Local author receives $3,750 grant from Sask. Arts Board for Hutterite book

Local writer Mary-Ann Kirkby has embarked on an ambitious endeavor as she attempts to produce an authoritative chronicle of the Hutterite people.

She recently returned from a three-week trip to Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria to research the history of the 500-year-old protestant sect, which originated in Tyrol, a province in the Austrian Alps. She said it was “exhilarating and exhausting” and she hopes to go back.

“I still have some travelling to do. There are probably five more countries I need to visit,” she said.

“We spent 100 years in Moravia, Slovakia, Hungary and 100 years as well in the Russian Ukraine.”

After facing persecution in Europe for hundreds of years, Hutterites began immigrating to the North American Great Plains in the late 19th century. Kirkby said there are 70 Hutterite communities, or “colonies,” in Saskatchewan.

She admits the upcoming book, with the working title The Hutterite Story, is a “hugely expansive project” and said it may take up to three years to complete. But she isn’t alone.

This week The Saskatchewan Arts Board announced that it awarded Kirkby a $3,750 Independent Artists grant “to begin the first stage of historical research that follows the persecution of Hutterites through eight countries for the purpose of writing a ‘roots-style’ book.” It’s the first time Kirkby has turned to the Arts Board for support.

“It’s a story that needs to be told and for them to say, ‘Yes, we agree’ felt really special,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have gone and I wouldn’t have started this project without the funding, plain and simple. This story wouldn’t have wings without the Saskatchewan Arts Board.”

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