In 1936 Erika Tavonius graduated with a medical degree in Simferopol. She first practiced medicine on the Volga, in Alexanderhöhe. She explained: " I was responsible for the well-being of the inhabitants of the 25 villages, the little hospital, and the orphanage for 30 preschool children, plus a cheese factory where I needed to examine the employees". To make matters worse, Erika said, "There was no telephone in the hospital, nor in the village. To reach the village, one had to walk across the cemetery and through a deep ravine where the wolves lived!"
Erika’s son Rudy was born in 1938 after his father, Peter Ruppel, had been sent to Siberia. Erika then joined her sister in Sevastopol where her son Rudolf was born in 1938. By 1943, along with her son, and four motherless children she had taken in, Erika arrived in Heidelberg, a Lutheran village on the west bank of the Molotschna River. Next Erika found work at Waldheim, Molotschna with the German Red Cross.
Soon Erika, son Rudy and four daughters became part of the Great Trek to the West. The family arrived in the Warthegau in 1944, from here they traveled by train through Berlin to the home of Erika's cousin. Erika practiced medicine in Germany for three years after which she went to Paraguay and practiced first in the Fernheim Mennonite Colony for five years and then in Friesland Mennonite Colony during her final year in Paraguay.
At the end of 1954 Erika moved to Vineland, Ontario, Canada where she met an acquaintance, John A. Pankratz from Gnadenfeld, Molotschna Colony. Erika and John married in Kitchener on 12 November 1957 and moved to Reedley, California where Erika worked as a registered nurse in a state hospital for 27 years. In 1985, after the death of her husband, she returned to Waterloo to join her son Rudy.
When asked Erika if her father would have been pleased to know that two of his children had chosen to become doctors, Erika replied, "Not at all! Father didn't want his children to become medical doctors!" And then, with a twinkle in her bright blue eyes, she continued, "But much like children of today, we disregarded parental advice."
Dr. Erika Tavonius Pankratz died in Vineland on 24 September 2006. Her son Rudy predeceased her; her daughter Kaethe Lidkte lived in Vineland, Ontario in 2006.
Interview with Erika Tavonius Pankratz in 1996.
"Pankratz, Erika, M.D." St. Catharines Standard (26 September 2006)
Cite This Article
Koop, Astrid. "Pankratz, Erika Tavonius (1908-2006)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2006. Web. 17 Apr 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Pankratz,_Erika_Tavonius_(1908-2006)&oldid=95986.
Koop, Astrid. (2006). Pankratz, Erika Tavonius (1908-2006). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 April 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Pankratz,_Erika_Tavonius_(1908-2006)&oldid=95986.
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