Sunday, November 11, 2012


A few weeks ago at the Centre - trees are bare now
Our last week in Molochansk. Even though days are getting colder people keep coming to the Centre.  Our doors are never closed.  Sometimes they come to sit, precisely, because it is a warm place. 

Baba Zenaida and her mentally disabled,
  alcoholic son live in dire poverty
We’ve received 47 applications for coal this winter.  In our area there are still many elderly who haven't the means to switch to natural gas.  We work with an annual coal budget trying to help the most needy. 
Neighbour helping lady on the left
who is presently bedridden

Home visits are made to ascertain those who qualify. For instance, a household with two people on pension would not meet our criteria.  These are two of this year's coal recipients. 

Denis is a young entrepreneur who has become a strawberry and garlic farmer.  In addition he is the facility manager for the Seniors Home at the church. We recently 
provided some assistance enabling him to purchase a tiller.  Until now he has worked his hectares by hand.  Last Sunday he sprang to his feet, ran to the front of the church to share this miracle with the congregation.  It was a dream come true.

We had an unexpected visit last week.  A delegation from the former Mennonite village of Lichtenau came to the Centre requesting assistance in restoring of a small Orthodox chapel. 

Parishioners had gathered money but didn't have sufficient funds to replace the linoleum. While visiting this potential project we noticed that the church was adjacent to the village Baptist church. Dema asked how this was working out for them.  
Dedication of newly renovated worship space
Without hesitation the lady answered. "There is enough sin in the church already - we will not add to that. We work together; we worship the same God." It is obvious  that bridge building has taken place in this village. We were pleased to offer help.  

A few more highlights.  Rudy has been having a great time teaching vocal skills to nine young people - eight women and one intrepid young man.

 They are learning to listen to one another, blending their voices and trying out harmony. Since only a few read notes, they've particularly enjoyed singing rounds.

Jakob & Anna - former Mennonite house in background

Last Sunday we met with two Peace Corps Volunteers who are stationed in Zaporozhye.  Anna has a distant Mennonite background.  Her great-grandparents lived in the former village of Alexanderwohl and emigrated to Kansas in the 1870's.  What fun if was to take them to this village  From Helmut Huebert's historical atlas we were able to identify the plots where her Schmidt and Unruh relatives lived. 
Anna holding up family picture
This girl, who has a British father and a Mexican-American mother, could not wipe the broad smile from her face.  We drove the road through the village three times, Anna, the whole time trying to envision the lives of her ancestors.  Many pictures were taken.  Anna and Jakob expressed appreciation over and over again.

Concluding comments from Tamara Nikolaiovna.  This dear lady has been attending our seniors lunches since the Centre opened its doors 11 years ago.  She says she has four homes -
her little house, the Mennonite Centre, church and heaven.  She says she watches the calendar and cannot wait for Tuesdays and Fridays to come.  She comments on the caring attention of the staff.  She has made many new friends.  She says, "we see each other and we know that we are still alive. The Mennonite Centre has made a big difference, the town has become friendlier."  She is the beneficiary of glasses and will also receive coal.  She wants Canada to know that "all our people say thank you."

When we first came to Ukraine as North American directors we were given no specific job description. Summing up the past months we've served as listeners, discerners, facilitators, helpers, bridge builders, overseers, envisioners, reporters and encouragers.  No day is the same as another.  We learn to be flexible because often things are unpredictable.  It's been a privilege, a challenge and a joy.  Many times we’ve sat around a table listening to peoples’ stories and concerns.  Many times there haven't been easy answers or solutions. Our hearts have been stirred as we’ve tried to understand and respond to their plight, offering aid where possible and seeing peoples’ lives changed.  All this because we have interested, concerned and generous supporters.  Reiterating the words of Tamara Nikolaiovna, "The people here thank you from the bottom of their hearts." 

If you wish to contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine make your Canadian cheques to "Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine" or "FOMCU." Cheques from American donors should be made out to "MFC-FOMCU". All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer, 3675 North Service Rd, Beamsville, Ontario, Canada - L0R 1B1. Check our website at for information on credit card donations

Thursday, November 1, 2012


The Lavra
Kiev – a city of many faces; a city hoping to forge ahead, a city that remembers.  Again, as in recent years we spent several days here, our  main mission, delivering a donation to a farmer living east of the city.  It was post-election day and interesting to observe people on the Metro and riding the marshrutka.  Resignation appeared written on their faces – no heated discussions, just business as usual.  No detectible embers of the Orange Revolution. 
Dema & Rudy in front of the presidential palace
The ruling party received just slightly over 30% of the vote and together with communists will form a majority.  The Communist Party resurged from 5% last election to 14%.  This time, however, the opposition will be stronger, thus giving some hope.  A translator friend from the Intourist Office told us last week, “it will take a generation or perhaps two for Ukraine to change.”  According to the demographic breakdown of voters, it is the elderly who keep the current government in power.  They remember the “good old days” when everyone had a job.

The Rada - Ukrainian Parliament

Public park adjoining palace area

Angels of Sorrow
Ukraine has a history of suffering.  A national museum commemorating the victims of famines in the 20th century was founded in 2009.  It depicts the tragedies of 1921-22, of the 1930’s Stalin-imposed genocide and the 1946-47 post-war famines.  Ukraine lost about 10 million people while Stalin exported confiscated grains to the West.

It was a moving and thought-provoking experience to visit this site.  Angels of Sorrow guard the entrance leading to the Candle of Memory, symbolic of a revived Ukraine. 

Ukraine torn up by its roots
A haunting statue depicting a starving young girl clutching ears of grain in her small hands.  An underground memorial hall displays art and sculptures, also video excursions depicting the scale of the Holodomors.  A National Book of Memory lists names of the victims. It was stated that the preservation of these memories serves to safeguard Ukraine’s future.

Sculpture created from

For many of us also, memories of our ancestral past spur us on to do good, to help the needy, to comfort the sorrowful, to give to the hungry food.  Remembering the words of Menno Simons, “true evangelical faith cannot lie sleeping.“