Thursday, June 9, 2016


Homeless gather behind walls in an abandoned property
 on a busy street
Yuri and his hair stylist wife
Early Sunday morning we travelled to Zaporizhia, arriving in time to join a group of homeless people who were gathering to receive a warm meal.  Yuri, a former alcoholic and drug addict, organizes these meals.  He was eager to tell us about his renewed life, becoming a Christian, being healed of his addictions and about the people he is now helping.  In one corner we saw people sleeping on the ground, on another corner empty bottles collected by helpers to be returned to a brewery for money.  In yet another corner Yuri proudly pointed out his Jewish wife giving free haircuts.  People lined up to receive their food.  Yuri read scripture and prayed and the meal was dished out.  Yuri told the story of starting with 8 hryvnia and now helping homeless in three locations.  FOMCU has been providing some aid.  All in all, an amazing scene.

We met a young mom, Vika, who with her infant daughter fled Donetsk during the war.  She is grateful for any help she can receive.  She left with a bright smile, holding a teddy bear, a gift for her little one.

Vika is one of the almost a million IDPs, internally displaced persons, in Ukraine.  United Nations Human Rights Commission states that "after 2 years of conflict the situation in eastern Ukraine remains volatile and continues to have a severe impact on human rights, especially for those living near territories controlled by armed groups.  The crisis is far from over and should not fall off the radar screen of the international community."
Later that morning we met up with Yuri again at a two-hour church service.  He had somehow found time to change his clothes.

In the afternoon we were invited to a birthday party at the home of Vladimir and Ina and told this story.  They have one daughter who married a Turk and have a beautiful little granddaughter.  It was a great sorrow when this family moved to Turkey.  Vladimir is a plumber working at an orphanage.  One day he noticed a little girl who was the image of his granddaughter. Vladimir and Ina decided to adopt her, and in the process found out there were three more siblings, two in another orphanage and another 18 and on her own.  Soon these also became part of the family.  They then discovered that another son Sergei had remained in an orphanage in Donetsk. The Mennonite Centre helped them navigate the system to bring this little boy out of the People's Republic of Donetsk and reunite the family.  From falling in love with one little orphan girl, this couple has now embraced 5 children.   When we arrived we were told that nine year old Sergei had invited all the neighbouring children for cake and that they were now playing in the neighbourhood.  There was plenty of cake remaining which we enjoyed with the parents.  The house is still in the process of remodelling to accommodate this large family.  Again we were able to provide some assistance.

Olga Rubel oversees that work in the Zaporizhia area.  She has made contact with the people, knows the territory, the roads to take and discerns the needs.  It's a pleasure to work together.

For more information on the work of the Mennonite Centre, please go to  Also check out Mennonite Centre Ukraine Facebook page

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