Monday, September 03, 2012

Blog 7, 2012

Blog #7

The Old and the New

Coming back every summer gives us the unique opportunity to view changes with fresh eyes. We can compare the current with previous years (by the way, Ukrainians have informed us that there is good news for road improvements—next year Ukraine will have half the potholes that they have this year—they will be connecting every two potholes to make only one large one).
Last week, together with recently-arrived Rudy and Hildegarde Baerg, visited two very old school buildings and then took a tour of a very modern Home-Depot/Ikea type store.
 The former Maedchenschule in Chortitza, now known as School #81, is the oldest school in the Zaporozhye oblast (province). It has heritage status.
We recently funded a major engineering review of the physical condition of the building. We are pleased that school authorities are committed to using this building and are currently undertaking a renovation of some of the classrooms. In one of the larger assembly rooms they are restoring the ceilings and floors; they have also installed some new windows.  
Notice the maple leaf emblem on the side acknowledging the Canadian connection to the school. We think the metal stairs, with their original “Lepp and Wallman” labels, have been trod on more than any other surface in the oblast. This old school is excited to be one of three in Zaporozhye that are the first to open its doors to special needs kids this September. While the building is the oldest, the programs are among the newest.

On Saturday we attended the 100th anniversary of the former Mennonite secondary school at Dolinskoya, previously known as Neu Osterwick and the adjacent community of Kronstal. It is still being used for Grades 2 to 9. We joined in a partnership with the regional State authorities in replacing 14 classroom windows in the school—we funded seven and the State funded seven. We also provided some school equipment for the nearby kindergarten and Grade 1 classes. The anniversary celebration was an all-day event, and was combined with First Bell celebrations, dances, music, cake, powerpoint presentation on the history of the school, lunch, and more music. They even danced a polka honoring the Mennonites! We clapped along in the spirit of celebration.

 We couldn`t stay for the entire event, as we had other commitments, however we came back today (Monday) to meet with teachers and students and answer  their questions, and Linda even played the piano at their request. We were asked questions such as "Do you think Ukrainians like the writer Shevchenko more than Canadians like Shakespeare?" or, "Who are the Mennonites?" or "What year is it in Canada?"  One child said, "Thank you for the windows—it is so nice that they open and we can get fresh air in."
On Saturday afternoon we saw the New Ukraine, at the New-Line store. The director of the store and his advertising manager gave us a grand tour of what admission to the World Trade Organization can get you. There were carpets from Turkey and Iran, tools, Classen flooring, and doors from Germany, bathroom fixtures and tiles from Italy, to name but a few. We were also surprised at the many products now made in Ukraine. We were blown away by what was available in this 20,000-square-meter building, built to European standards.
The tour was topped off with fine Turkish coffee and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Apartment renovations are increasingly common in Zaporozhye and there seems to be disposable income. The big-city story is in stark contrast to the shrivelling villages.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to attend the two Mennonite churches in Zaporozhye. We have found many delightful friends in the Zaporozhye Mennonite Church and met new ones in the New Hope Church. Different styles, same message. Very encouraging.
Tomorrow we will be getting our boarding passes, and with mixed feelings we will be coming home. Why is it that you leave with a heavy heart when you have left so much of your heart here?

Ben and Linda