When Memories Remain

The continuing saga of David and Dennis Pischke who survived more than a decade of abuse at the hands of their violently unstable step-father. Within these pages lies the answer to the burning question of what happened to the twins after they left the isolated farm where they grew up and why at mid-life, they decided to speak publicly about their childhoods.

The heartfelt and often humorous story of two disadvantaged teenagers who matured into upstanding citizens and in their quest for redemption, fought against bitter memories and untrue allegations—even one for murder.

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STORY BEHIND THE STORY:

I was in the basement folding laundry. The phone rang so I put on my headset to answer the call. The woman was one of many strangers who over the past six months had called to ask how the twins were doing, if they were living happy, productive lives. I thought the epilogue at the end of Where Children Run answered all those questions, but readers wanted more.

Then came June 1997. Mike Kalanza’s body was discovered buried under a pile of rocks in the Spearhill quarry by a group of high school students. My thoughts went immediately back to a telephone conversation I’d had with Moosehorn resident, Gus Breitkreitz in August 1996, while I was writing Where Children Run. Gus told me that I shouldn’t be writing a book about the Pischke twins because they were “just trying to make themselves look good” because “they were the ones who shot Mike Kalanza.” Mike had disappeared without a trace in 1985. Rumours circulated when he disappeared that the 80-year-old recluse was likely robbed and murdered. Gus was convinced the twins were responsible.

I didn’t tell David and Dennis about that phone call, not until Kalanza’s body was found. At first, they laughed. Then they grew solemn. The rest of the evening was spent talking about how no matter how hard they worked, how honest they’d become, their past still haunted them—that even though their step-father was dead—the people who’d said they were liars when they first began telling their story, now believed they were murderers as well.

It was a full circle moment for me as I remembered,  that is why the twins approached me in the first place. They wanted to set the record straight, to expose members of their church and community who turned a blind eye to their suffering as children. Those people had viewed them with disdain as children and then with suspicion as adults. But the problem was, that isn’t the story I wrote. Where Children Run focused only on their childhood and we believed that was enough—until another phone call was made, this time anonymously to the Manitoba Crimestoppers line after Kalanza’s body was discovered—pointing a finger at the twins. The allegation was serious enough that police asked the brothers to take a polygraph test to prove their innocence.

Mike Kalanza’s body was found in 1997 but the book wasn’t released until 2001. Why it took so long.

There were a few reasons for this, the main one being that the police investigation was ongoing and we believed they would solve the case. I really wanted a solved case instead of writing a book filled with suppositions. I had a few false starts in 1998 and 1999, but it wasn’t until I saw how much the accusation bothered the twins that I finally decided it was time to write the book.

On May 6, 2000, David set out on a walk from Banff, Alberta to his home in Steep Rock to raise awareness about child abuse. This was an incredible experience for him and the local support was overwhelming. We were all very thankful for that. I had a solid story upon his return and finished the book the following year.

Did I ever doubt the Pischkes?

Not once. I knew them so well by the time Kalanza’s body was discovered that it would have taken videotaped evidence of them committing the crime to convince me, and even then it would have been impossible to believe.

I was prepared that When Memories Remain would not sell like Where Children Run. Locally, people were tired of hearing about the Pischke twins and if I had to do it all over again, I would have finished and released the book two years earlier. But this is not a complaint as the book still reached Canadian Bestseller status. The disappointing part is that many readers don’t even realize the book exists.  I am pleased, though, that a number of readers say they prefer this book to Where Children Run, especially those who found the abuse scenes too difficult to read. This story is more complex with a puzzle to solve—and who doesn’t love a good old fashioned murder mystery?

How have these two books changed my life?

I will be forever grateful to the twins for giving me the opportunity to write their story. One of the saddest mornings of my life came when Lynne Pischke called to say that David had died early that morning. I’d seen him less than a month before and remember how he stood outside the log house he’d built, waving as I drove off. We’d been at the old farm site earlier that day and took a picture in front of the St. Thomas Lutheran Church. It is the last photo of David and shortly after he died, the church fell into ruin and now it’s gone.

I made a promise to David that I’d never let the books go out of print. It was difficult at first, with him gone, keeping it going, but now with today’s technology, there is no reason why these books shouldn’t be available indefinitely.

Has the Mike Kalanza murder been solved?

In May 2015, police issued a press release stating that they had new leads in the murder investigation, then in September 2016, an arrest was made.