Anna (Buskas) Dyberg
Life and Work
Anna Knutas was born on December 29th, 1900 in Gammalsvenskby, Ukraine, which was then a part of the Russian Empire. In 1782, a group of Estonian Swedes, many from the island Dagö, were brought to southern Ukraine by Catherine II. After an eight-month journey through Russia the Swedes reached their destination which they then named Gammalsvenskby. “The first years brought incredible hardship to the villagers; between 935 and 1207 people left Dagö in 1781, but only 535 arrived at their final destination in 1782”. Some of the Gammalsvenskby Swedes immigrated to Canada, attempting to recreate Gammalsvenskby on the prairies.
Anna was born to Kristina Kristiansdotter Knutas and her first husband (name unknown) and was later formally adopted by Kristina Knutas’ second husband, Kristian Matsson Buskas. Kristina was his third wife and he had multiple children from his previous marriages that then became Anna’s step-siblings. Anna, or Annie, told her children stories about living in the Ukraine. She could remember living in Russia as a young child and threshing grain. Her family didn’t have a threshing machine like some families, so the work was hard and time-consuming. Annie could remember helping her father weed the grapes in the vineyard. There was a village nearby where the inhabitants were primarily German, so Annie learned to speak German as well as Swedish and her village’s dialect of Russian- Swedish.
At nine and a half years of age, Annie left the Ukraine with her parents and seven of her siblings. Kristian Buskas had received letters from Annie’s uncle, John Malmas, telling them about the opportunities and land available in Canada. The conditions in the Ukraine at that time were very difficult and Kristian felt that the opportunity to move to Canada was one that he wanted to take. They left Odessa, Ukraine by ship on May 10, 1910. She could remember the ship going through a big storm while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. They had to cover everything up on the ship’s deck because the waves would crash over the bow of the boat. Annie recalled that her sisters fell ill but she never did.
The family arrived at Ellis Island, New York on May 22, 1910. By train they eventually made their way to Wetaskiwin, Alberta on May 29, 1910. They were picked up at the train station by John Malmas. John let them live in an empty granary on his farm until they could get settled properly in a house. Annie started school at the Bear Hills School taking grade 4. The next year, Annie’s father bought a home in Wetaskiwin and drilled a well on their land. The house was located near 37th Avenue and 56th Street, and they lived there for a couple of years before moving out to a farm in the country. The farmhouse that they lived in was located at the NE quarter of Section 11, 4423. By the time they had moved, however, most of the children had already scattered around the area, starting their own lives. Anna was confirmed in October 1915 in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Main Street in Wetaskiwin.
Annie began working for Alfred Nelson when she was 13 years old as her parents could not easily support her living at home. Having very little education, Annie decided that going to work at a young age was the best way for her to gain experience and to help her family. She worked for the Nelsons for 4 years, the first 2 years of which she worked for only room and board. The Nelsons lived across the road from Mons Dyberg. Four years later Annie’s brothers talked their employer, Mons, into letting their sister Annie come work for him as a housekeeper. Mons owned a farm at NW of Section 15, 4423. Annie went to work for him when she was 17 years old. A year later, Mons asked Annie to marry him, to which Annie replied “You’re too old!” However, Annie was 19 years old when she and Mons were married on July 20, 1920. Annie and Mons had 5 children: John, who died in infancy, Clarence, Leonard, Martin and Albert. Annie’s father, Kristian, died in 1921, which forced his wife Kristina to go to work at that time. To help out, Annie and Mons took in Annie’s younger siblings, Alvina, Julia and William.
“Annie never complained about anything, that was just her way.” -Dyberg Family History
Annie was a very hard-working, organized person. Mons had a large farm operation that required many employees who had to be fed and cared for. Annie was always very eager to help, even while raising four boys. When Annie’s younger sister Alvina was 16 she had come to help Annie at the farm. Alvina acted as a midwife and helped to deliver all of Annie’s children. Annie was a very kind woman, always taking in a child or even a family that had fallen on hard times. As new immigrant families came to the area much like her own had, she would let them live with her until they found a place for themselves. She encouraged them to step in and help around the farm which in turn allowed them to learn the household and farming skills they would use for the rest of their lives.
Annie was also an active member in the Malmo Svea Lutheran Church, built in 1902. A steeple for the Church was built in 1917 and the building was active until 1954 when the new building was erected. They kept the original building standing, retaining the Svea name until 1976 when it became necessary to dismantle it because of repair costs. Annie was a member of the Ladies Aid and was always willing to help out by preparing local dinners or by bringing fresh flowers from her garden to the Church. The Svea Lutheran Church Ladies Aid was organized in 1899, and while Annie was with them they organized many fundraising dinners and even raised enough money to purchase pews for the Church in 1938. Given that not many women could drive at that time, Annie volunteered her time to pick up many local women and ensure that they always made it to meetings on time. Annie was also the “Visitation Committee” – if any Church member was ever admitted to the hospital in the surrounding area, whether it was Bashaw, Ponoka, Camrose or Wetaskiwin, Annie would deliver flowers or other gifts along with a visit. The Svea Lutheran Church became the Calvary Lutheran Church in 1965. Annie’s deep faith kept her involved with the Church her whole life, continuing to attend regular services at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church after she moved to Wetaskiwin in 1964.
Whenever Annie had spare time she used it constructively. Her children can recall her sitting at her spinning wheel whenever she could, and she always had a beautiful and well-kept garden. She and Mons owned sheep and they would shear them every spring, wash the wool, card and clean it, and then she would make her own yarn.
Mons and Annie’s four sons were all born and grew up on the Dyberg farm and the farm remains in the family today. It is currently owned by Martin Dyberg’s son, Blaire Dyberg. Not surprisingly three of Annie’s sons grew up to farm for themselves. Clarence, the oldest son, and Martin, the third son have farmed their entire lives and Leonard kept up Mons’ farm. Leonard lived with Annie until he passed away in 1963. Albert, Annie’s youngest son, began his life farming and then decided to venture into the insurance industry. He now owns his own insurance company in Edmonton: Dyberg Insurance Inc.
Mons passed away on January 23rd, 1955 and in 1964 Annie bought a house at 4809 47 Avenue in Wetaskiwin. In her retired years she spent many hours knitting, growing flowers, and other things she didn’t have free time for in her younger years. Many summer afternoons Annie could be seen at the Co-op Coffee Shop, wearing her straw sun hat and enjoying a cup of coffee while she visited. She knitted many pairs of socks and mitts for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Annie’s sons and grandchildren fondly remember her carrying a “Brownie” camera to all of their family functions – she would insist on taking pictures of everyone, and if they protested she would promptly tell them to stop. Annie lived at her home in Wetaskiwin for many years. In her last few years, Annie lived in a long term care facility in Wetaskiwin. She passed away on March 5th, 1997 at the age of 96.
“She was what you saw. Very unpretentious, hard-working, and you didn’t have to try to guess what she was thinking because she didn’t keep it inside. She said it the way it was.” -Violet Dyberg, daughter-in-law
Compiled by Ashley Valberg
Sources: Martin and Violet Dyberg, Dyberg Written Family History, Candice Dyberg, Cindy Dyberg Kellerman, Roxann Buskas, Calvary Lutheran Church 100 Anniversary Booklet