By Marianne Curtis
An Ontario man who has not set foot in Woodridge since he was a child is hoping he will find information on his family’s humble beginnings as Hungarian immigrants forced to settle in the community back in the 1930’s.
Joseph Molnar lives in Woodstock Ontario but his family can be traced back to a homestead outside of Ste. Anne, near Dufresne. When he looks back even further, his parents Peter and Elizabeth Molnar immigrated to Winnipeg from Hungry in 1924 and would eventually have a total of seven children. Joe is the sole survivor.
“I am hoping to leave an accurate oral family history for my descendants,” Molnar explains. “At this juncture their eyes glaze over in disbelief if I tell them I lived in a Molnar family built log house in the Woodridge region of Manitoba while an infant as the result of a “back to the land” farm resettlement program.”
Molnar says that to his understanding is that during the great depression the Federal Government of the day and the Manitoba Provincial Governments had a joint “Back to the Land” program to get welfare recipients off welfare. Through the program, the couple was offered an opportunity to resettle courtesy of the government on land, located in the bush near Woodridge.
“It was the height of the depression and my family referred to it as “back to the land,” Molnar continued. “The family moved out to a piece of land in the Woodridge area – I am not sure if they were given animals for the farm or if they were given money to buy animals but the whole plan was to get them off welfare and on their own.”
Molnar was too little to remember the Woodridge home but he remembers eventually growing up in Dufresne and going to school in St. Anne.
“It is important for me to find out more about what happened; it was shaming to my family to be moved from the city to the country,” Molnar recalled his parents talking the program. “Manitoba was sending people back to Europe but my family was not sent back because they were here longer than five years.”
Molnar would like to find official documentation on the settlement plan and has put out a call for information. He has already emailed several local MLA’s but has yet to get a response.
“I want to see the actual documentation that my parents were involved with in this agreement,” he continued. “I’d like to be able to present to my family copies of the documents to show parts of their history so that they have something look back on as being authentic.”
Molnar is hopeful that there may still be families in the area that may remember or have participated in similar settlement programs. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the 1930’s Peter and Elizabeth Molnar and the first five of seven children voluntary’s participated in a “Back to the Land” settlement program that saw them encouraged to relocate to a homestead in Woodridge.