Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekly report October 21

In a little over a week I will be putting my faith into the pilots and planes of Air Austria, first overnighting in Vienna and then home. I am looking forward to speaking good English with someone other than myself. Yesterday I went to a photo shop to get a few pictures printed. I realized again how limited my Russian is and how dense I must appear when trying to say something. Fortunately with the few German people here I can converse reasonably well and that is a real social help (when my parents insisted on my attending German School classes despite my reluctance, they did me a much larger favour than I, or they, could ever have imagined).

The highlight of the week was going back to one of my favourite villages – Udarnik, formerly Neukirch. Udarnik is a small, end of the road, village on the edge of the Juschanlee stream that has two things going for it – a school leadership team which is committed to studying their Mennonite history, and a former Mennonite church that has essentially kept its exterior look. However, the village has a major drawback - no water.

The Director of the school has a vision for the rebuilding of his community. He is a Deputy and represents the community in the Oblast as a member of the Our Ukraine (Orange) party. He says he is assured of getting 2 million grievna ($400,000 Cdn or $398,000 US) to bring water to his community. He personally bought the Church to prevent it being destroyed for the paltry sum the bricks would bring in, and is spearheading a project to build a monument in a school garden to recognize the suffering of Mennonites during the Holodomor (the Soviet-imposed famine of 1932/33). We discussed the design of the monument; they are leaning towards a design with a broken sheaf of wheat with a hand grabbing it. He wants our support to give 1000 grievna ($200 US) for the monument and another 200 grievna for a high school class field trip to view another Ukrainian monument.

Upon leaving the village we told the school Director that we were off to Balkovo – formerly known as Fuerstenwerder. He showed us where to take a shortcut on a country lane. We took the well grooved, one lane dirt road that “pryammad on” (straight ahead) for 7 kilometers. On our left were tall, sentinel-like trees, on our right a quilt of bright green winter wheat, broken up by freshly ploughed brown fields with a tractor which appeared as a annoyance on the horizon. In fact, one speculated whether you couldn’t see the curvature of the earth. I was reminded that this was the land our grandparents could not forget, a land that produced so much and yet brought starvation for millions. And then we came upon the village of Rueckenau nestled in the valley, with only the tile and concrete roofs showing amongst all the trees. That is the scene I am sure many would have observed over 100 years ago when they came via horse and buggy on a similar path to the Saengerfests at the Rueckenau Church. I asked Slava, our Ukrainian Director, to stop as I got out to imagine the sounds of the choirs rehearsing. An inspiring thought.

This is a complicated land, at times so close to heaven - and then reminders of too much hell.



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