Martens, Maria (1884-1961)

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Maria Martens: dedicated fundraiser and writer; born on 16 May 1884 to Wilhelm Dyck (4 February 1854 – 2 March 1936) and Maria (Riediger) Dyck (1 July 1858 – 14 October 1896) in Nikolaifeld, Yasykovo Mennonite settlement, Russia. She was the fifth child in the family. On 6 June 1902, she married Kornelius Martens, son of Jakob and Susanna Martens, in Petrovka, Naumenko Mennonite settlement. The couple had seven children, four of whom survived childhood. Maria died of an infection caused by diabetes on 1 July 1961 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Maria grew up in the Yazykovo Mennonite settlement of south Russia. She married Kornelius Jakob Martens on 6 June 1902 in Petrovka, the same year her husband felt a calling to the ministry. The couple lived in Kharkov, where their first child was born, for some time before moving to Millerovo to take advantage of business opportunities there. Over the next years, Kornelius continued to preach, occasionally being jailed for his activities. In 1927, he and the couple’s son managed to cross into Latvia and from there to Germany and then Canada. Soon, he was preaching again. 

Meanwhile, Maria Martens stayed in Russia. She acted as a conduit for foreign money to fund various mission projects, particularly for Baptist causes. Because the secret police were interested in her activities, she moved often from place to place, trying to keep one step ahead of them. Finally, the police raided her house in Halbstadt (Molochansk) in early June of 1931 and found a large amount of money, including American dollars, in her possession. Maria was arrested and sent to prison.

 After six months of frequent interrogations, Maria Martens was sentenced to three years of banishment in eastern Siberia. Together with 1500 other prisoners, she was taken to the railway station and, after four months of being shunted back and forth, eventually arrived in Alma Ata. Many prisoners had died along the way, but those who remained were sent two months later to an island on the Irtysh River, 1000 kilometers further east. Two and a half years into the sentence Maria was freed, and so she was able to leave the island and join her daughter Helena, who lived with her family in the far north of the Soviet Union, near the White Sea.

During this time, Kornelius was trying to use whatever means were at his disposal to get his wife to Canada. Using a certificate dated 15 December 1932, he had managed to obtain German citizenship for himself and Maria. A year and seven months after her sentence was completed, Maria Martens was given permission to leave the Soviet Union, and she crossed the border on 2 September 1936. She had to stay in Germany until 1938 for health reasons, but she arrived in Canada in July of that year, joining her husband in Winnipeg.

Following her arrival in Winnipeg, Maria began to write about her experiences, publishing her first book in 1940 and later compiling a booklet about her father for the family. Several of their children had moved to Canada as well, although one daughter was unable to leave the Soviet Union until after World War II.

Maria Martens was a diabetic, and her health began to deteriorate. Towards the end of May 1961, an infection in her leg caused here severe pain, and she died on 1 July 1961. Kornelius was in Germany at the time, but he flew home to be at the funeral, held in the North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church on 4 July 1961.

Maria Martens was a determined and versatile person, able to use whatever circumstances she encountered to help her family and community. Her dedication was an example for everyone.


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Forschung zur Geschichte und Kultur der Russlanddeutschen, 1994: 81.

Hebley, J. A. Protestants in Russia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976: 87-95.

Hefley, James and Marti. By their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century. Milford, MI: Mott Media: 33-36.

Huebert, Helmut T. Mennonites in the Cities of Imperial Russia, 2 vols. Winnipeg : Springfield Publishers, 2006: v. I.

Kroeker, Abraham. Christlicher Familienkalendar (1912): 145; (1914): 159.

Loewen, Heinrich, Jr. Russische Freikirchen. Bonn: Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft, 1995: 35-57.

Martens, Kornelius. Die Pioniere und Helden des russischen Protestantismus, unpublished document written while he was interned in a concentration camp, likely 1940-1945.

Martens, Kornelius. Kurzer Rückblick auf mein Leben, an autobiography written in his later years.

Martens, Maria (nee Dyck). Aus dem Leben Unseres Grossvaters Wilhelm Dyck, weiland Ältester der Mennoniten Brüdergemeinde zu Millerovo, Dongebiet. 1940.

Martens, Maria. Stormy Tides: Religious Persecutions in Soviet Russia: Life Experiences by Mrs. Maria Martens. Winnipeg, Canada: self-published, 1940.

“Nachruf für den Ältesten und Prediger Wilhelm Dyck.” Mennonitische Rundschau (6 May 1936): 6.

“Obituary: Martens, Maria (nee Dyck).” Mennonitische Rundschau (19 July 1961): 8.

“Obituary: Martens, Prediger Cornelius Jakob.” Mennonitische Rundschau (31 July 1974): 11, 12.

“Obituary: Martens, Wilhelm Cornelius.” Mennonitische Rundschau (5 December 1990): 23.

“Obituary: Schulz, Maria.” Mennonitische Rundschau (November 1995): 32, 33.

Peters, K. Genealogy of Heinrich Heese, 1787-1977. Winnipeg, Canada, 1978: 87-95.

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“Stiftung zum Andenken an Prediger Cornelius J. Martens.” Mennonitische Rundschau (21-28 December 1977): 16.

Toews, A. A. Mennonitische Märtyrer, 2 vols. North Clearbrook, British Columbia: self-published, 1954: v. 2, 67-72.

Additional Information

Maria was the daughter of Wilhelm Isaac Dyck (4 February 1854, Rosenthal, Chortitza, South Russia – 2 March 1936, Niverville, Manitoba, Canada) and Maria (Riediger) Dyck (1 July 1858, Neuanlage, Borozenko, South Russia – 14 October 1896, Andreasfeld, Chortitza, South Russia).

Maria married Kornelius Jakob Martens on 6 June 1902 in Petrovka, Naumenko, South Russia. Kornelius was the son of Jakob Martens (b. 23 July 1850, Einlage, Chortitza, South Russia) and Susanna Klassen (31 December 1851, Neuendorf, Chortitza, South Russia - 24 March 1923, Landskrone, Molotschna, South Russia).

Maria and Kornelius had seven children: Maria, Susanna, Elisabeth, Katharina, Helena, Wilhelm, and Kornelius.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published April 2009

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Huebert, Susan. "Martens, Maria (1884-1961)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2009. Web. 24 Apr 2018.,_Maria_(1884-1961)&oldid=143081.

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Huebert, Susan. (April 2009). Martens, Maria (1884-1961). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from,_Maria_(1884-1961)&oldid=143081.

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