Sawatzky, Jake (1930-1999)

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Jake Sawatzky

Jake Sawatzky: businessman; born 12 January 1930 in Nieder-Chortiza, Chortitza Colony, South Russia, the fourth child of Johann Sawatzky (1892 -?) and Justina (Janzen) Sawatzky (1894-1986). Jake had three siblings: John, Katie and Irene. Jake married Anne Epp (b. 21 December 1937) on 18 July 1959. Anne was the daughter of David Epp (1912-1996) and Agnes (Derksen) Epp (1917-2004). Jake and Anne raised four children: Robert, Teresa, Mark and Cristina. Jake died in Vancouver on 26 April 1999 and is interred at the Ocean View cemetery in Burnaby.

When Jake was one year old the family was disenfranchised in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. In 1933 Jake's father was arrested by the secret police (NKVD) and imprisoned for three months. For six weeks the family did not know where he was. Jake's father carried the bread ration cards in his pocket on the day of his arrest so the family had no bread during his imprisonment. Jake became malnourished and swollen. On 27 December 1933 Jake's father was released. Soon after he began to work on a collective farm. For a few years life became better. However, on 2 February 1938 Jake's father was arrested and never again heard from.

In 1943 the Sawatzky family along with thousands of others fled from the Ukraine and became refugees. Jake had been raising song pigeons and could not leave the birds behind. At the German border he was told that he could not take the pigeons with him so he sold them and was the first in his group to have German currency.

After a short time in Germany, the group moved to Yugoslavia and, in 1944, to Austria. He would later reminisce about his international education, having experienced schooling in five countries. Jake attended catechism classes in Kapfenberg, an Austrian refugee camp, and was baptized on the confession of his faith by Peter W. Thiessen in 1947.

The family immigrated to Canada in 1948, settling in Leamington, Ontario where Jake joined the Leamington United Mennonite Church. Here he also began working as a carpenter. In 1955 Jake and his mother and brother John moved to BC to join his sisters Katie and Irene. Jake joined the West Abbotsford Mennonite Church where he met and later married Anne. In 1959 he started his own construction company that developed into a commercial development business.

Jake and Anne made their home in Vancouver. They became members of the First United Mennonite Church. A few years later, when the Sherbrooke Mennonite Church was founded, Jake became chairman of the building committee. He served this congregation as chairman of the finance committee and also as a member of the church council. In time he also became a member of the Senior Citizen's Society Board, which initiated three major seniors building projects.

Jake's experience as a starving child and as a refugee gave him an immense interest in the work of the Mennonite Central Committee. He was a generous supporter of MCC and served on the executive board of MCC BC for 18 years. Jake was also a keen supporter of the BC and Canadian Conference of Mennonites.

Although Jake often mentioned his lack of formal education as a shortcoming, he was highly regarded for his unquestionable integrity. His children and many friends looked to him for advice and guidance. His advice was to live a balanced life and love God.

Jake's favorite saying was, "Gluecklich ist wer vergisst was nicht zu aendern ist." (Blessed is he who can forget that which cannot be changed). His life was evidence of living in the present without regret of the past.


Obituary in Der Bote (23 June1999): 6

Author(s) Hedy Hintz
Date Published November 2007

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Hintz, Hedy. "Sawatzky, Jake (1930-1999)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2007. Web. 22 Sep 2023.,_Jake_(1930-1999)&oldid=174281.

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Hintz, Hedy. (November 2007). Sawatzky, Jake (1930-1999). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 September 2023, from,_Jake_(1930-1999)&oldid=174281.

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