WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 07, 2013, 08:32 PM

The Hutterite Nine: Leaving the colony

Rolla, ND (WDAY TV) - For decades, they have quietly raised their chickens and pigs, occasionally coming to town for provisions in their traditional clothes.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Rolla, ND (WDAY TV) - For decades, they have quietly raised their chickens and pigs, occasionally coming to town for provisions in their traditional clothes.

But now, a peek inside a Hutterite Colony from those who know first-hand…

The young Hutterites from North Dakotan, the Nine, who have recently left the colony and written a book.

Thursday, they have left their simple, handmade clothes behind, but for this group of nine that left the Hutterite Colony, that life is forever etched into their minds and hearts.

Karen Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “And the more they persecuted and rejected us; that we did not want to stay there.”

Sheryl Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “I was so miserable and I remember going for a walk every day, crying.”

This was Jason Waldner before leaving his Forest River, ND, Hutterite Colony. He and his brother Titus left behind parents and a brother.

Jason Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “I wish they would know that this is nothing against them, personally; that it is the system that is oppressive and that is who we are pointing at. That has to change.”

Titus Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “The biggest thing was I was suffering from hopelessness and I did not see a way out. I was working in the chicken and in the pig barn and the field.”

The Nine felt persecuted when they turned away from Hutterite church and preaching, which was in a German dialect no one could understand, and became born-again Christians.

The colony shunned them, and so they walked out, often with nothing, to start over. All of them remember driving away for the last time.

Titus Waldner: “Until I stepped in the car and drove away, the peace that flooded into my heart is indescribable. I knew I made the right decision, but I knew because I knew.”

Rodney Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “When you get baptized in the Hutterite colony, you sign a contract, turning over everything; efforts you have, sign it all away so when you leave, you leave with nothing.”

They shed their own life, and stared new.

Junia Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “I can live now. I did not have a life there. I was like in a shell in a cage, trapped and no way of getting out.”

Titus Waldner: “Day in, day out, month after month, year after year, and there was no end to it.”

Karen Waldner remembers as a little girl dreaming of being a piano player, but her fate was sealed. She, like the other 15-year-olds, would become cooks and seamstresses.

Karen Waldner: “The more I gave up those desires to learn I noticed at age 15, I got more sad and depressed.”

And this was surprising. Despite the appearance of strict religious beliefs, the Nine tell us, alcohol flowed freely at the colony. Many in the colony drank, they say, because of being trapped there, with no way out.

Cindy Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “It is very, very oppressive.”

Glenda's father was the colony minister.

Glenda Maendel- Hutterite Nine: “You were wondering about depression. I remember as a Hutterite, I did not want to commit suicide, but I remember going to sleep thinking, ‘I don't want to wake up.’ I did not want to live anymore.”

Writing the book has opened wounds. Families still at the colony refuse to talk to some of the Nine, but these men and women have never regretted leaving.

Jason Waldner: “Life is a lot more fun; joyful.”

Junia Waldner: “I still have nightmares during the night. I wake up and think I am so glad I am there.”

When it came domestic violence, failing marriages, or abuse, women and children were told to be quiet and not ask questions.

Sheryl Waldner: “You are seen as inferior to men.”

Today, the nine all have jobs. Many living near Rolla, North Dakota. Darlene, who dreamed of having an apartment…

Darlene Waldner- Hutterite Nine: “I never thought it would actually happen.”

Now they take trips together, spending a lot of time at the lake; doing things they dreamed of as kids.

Now they can never imagine going back. They left a life pre-planned; decided for them. Now they are telling their story of freedom.

We contacted family of the Nine at the Hutterite Colony in Forest River, North Dakota.

While they would not comment on camera, they told us they are disturbed by the book, calling it, an “unfair portrayal."

And they say those who left are being brainwashed by a charismatic preacher in Rolla, North Dakota, who controls everything they do.