Saturday, June 11, 2016


The Mennonite Family Centre is a charitable organization that has been providing support to seniors in Zaporizhia for the past 15 years. Boris Letkemann, a Ukrainian Mennonite, manages this Centre.  He was directly involved in the restoration of the Mennonite Centre in Molochansk 16 years ago. Boris is also a member of the Ukrainian board of directors of the Molochansk Mennonite Centre.  We stopped in to see him at the Family Centre on Tuesday.  During the week 40 seniors come for meals and socialization.  Not only are they served breakfast and lunch, they get to take leftovers home.  We heard strains of "Gott ist die Liebe" coming from an adjacent room and joined in the singing.  What a delight to hear this traditional Mennonite hymn sung in three languages.
Boris standing in doorway
Boris has a staff of 15 trained home support workers who visit 152 seniors in the city as well as outlying villages, helping with bathing, cleaning etc.  He says it is a difficult time right now, but is optimistic about the future.  He says we have to be patient, "goodness changes people."

We visited School #66 and spoke with the principal, Nikolai.  There are 300 students in his school. Beginning next school year three classes will integrate children with disabilities. Each class will have a teaching assistant. This is ground-breaking in Ukraine.  Ukrainians have had a tendency to hide these children.  Of the 150 schools in the Zaporizhia district this is the only one that agreed to integration.  He says other students will learn compassion.  Parents are very grateful.  The school will be needing a wheelchair ramp and a toilet on the first floor.  Nikolai is asking for some help.

Promotei is an organization helping families with  autistic, cerebral palsy and Down's Syndrome children.  This summer Promotei has been granted access to a camp facility on Chortitza Island, a beautiful park-like setting along the Dnieper River.

We visited them there and watched them engaging in races and games.  they have devoted young teachers who are patient and loving.  We have helped  Promotei with various needs.

The shore of the Dnieper

Alexandra, wife of pastor in Nikolaipole
Olga Rubel discussing issues with Luba
We have 9 representatives in outlying areas who provide basic medical emergency aid to their villagers.  They know all the inhabitants and keep accurate records of their transactions.  It was a pleasure to reconnect with Alexandra and Luba, to relay our gratitude for their care and devotion.

This day was an emotional experience as I stood again on the soil of my ancestors.  Almost one hundred years ago Nikolaipole, known then as Nikolaifeld, gave harbour to my grandmother and her 7 children, one of them my mother, when they fled the anarchists.  My grandfather didn't survive.  The Mennonite church and school in this village still remain standing.  We have provided some assistance to this school.  The population of the village has decreased and the principal mentioned that it might only be a matter of time when some schools will be amalgamated.

Tomorrow we're back in Molochansk again.

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