Friday, October 4, 2013

Blog #2, October 4, 2013

Blog #2  October 4, 2013
When so much of our attention is focused on health concerns, unemployment, the disintegration of infrastructure and public buildings, and the list could go on, our hearts were warmed by the festivities and hospitality we experienced in the village of Orlova (Ohrloff) last Friday.  The program of music, speeches, and awards presented to various villagers, was held in the concert hall of the former Maria School for the Deaf (Tiege).  This was also significant for me because my father’s deaf uncle had attended this school and had been greatly helped by the skilled and well-trained teachers.  The hall has lost much of its former glory, but the people seemed proud to use the facility.  Following the program we were ushered into a bright room that they had renovated for small gatherings.  Bright floral designs decorated the walls.  Although the table and the benches were old and rickety, the spread of platters on the table was a feast for the eyes!  Every platter was creatively arranged with cheese, cold meats, sliced vegetables and fruits.  Bowls of chicken gelatins, potato and carrot salads filled every space.  Then a whole course of hot dishes was brought in: barbecued meats, potatoes, and plov.  Needless to say, the food was delicious!  The real highlight for us, I believe, came when one of the people who were gathered around the table broke into song, others joined in, and someone else picked up an accordion and accompanied them all.  Lovely folksong melodies, some joyous and others etched with longing, filled the room, with which we could hum along and join in the clapping.  Someone got up and danced spontaneously.  The music was interspersed with conversation and more food and then the singing would burst forth anew.   This celebration of village culture warmed our hearts.  They were eager to express their gratitude to the Mennonite Centre, which really means all of you back home who so generously contribute to our projects.  We felt humbled to be the recipients of their warm gratitude as your representatives.
Much of my reading these days has been the memoirs of individuals who suffered horrendously during the Stalin years.  These stories become all the more real for us living here in Ukraine, the land where it happened and where the effects of an oppressive government who destroyed its citizens is still evident.  How fortunate that our ancestors were able to escape when they did!  Some of the expressions of incredible faith amidst this unimaginable suffering raise questions for us.  How would we respond in similar circumstances?  Would our faith survive?  Are we passing on a lasting legacy to our children and grandchildren of commitment and devotion to our God?
 Senior’s Day is celebrated annually in Ukraine on Oct. 1st, and Mennonite Centre’s staff prepared a tasty hot lunch for them.  The tables were filled with seniors enjoying the food, the warmth of the room, and the fellowship with their friends.  Some shared a poem or a song to add to the celebration.
We were quite surprised to be notified that the Mennonite Centre had been nominated for a Tourism Award from the Zaporoschye oblast.  Normally we do not think of the Centre as a tourist attraction, but when we consider the many foreign visitors and the contribution made to the historical knowledge of the local people and beyond, it is definitely true.  A small example from just a couple of days ago proves again the Centre’s historical influence:  a local teacher came to gather information from our library for a history project that she was doing with her students.

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