Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blog #2 - Signs of Concern and Signs of Optimism

rusted items recovered from a well

Signs of concern and signs of optimism
One of the few disadvantages of being here in summer is the heat. Fortunately it isn’t that bad this year with temperatures hovering in the low-to mid-30s. I recall a previous year where Molochansk was sweltering with temperatures in the mid-40s and few people had air conditioning.  Air conditioners, balancing in windows and dripping condensation outside, are common now in the shops, but are still seen as a luxury in homes. One of the long-standing myths in this culture is that moving air will give you a cold. Our staff at the Mennonite Centre obviously believed the myth, because they were opposed to introducing even simple fans, much less air conditioners. Eventually we insisted that the kitchen needed an air conditioner.  After it was installed, the cook bowed before Linda with clasped hands, and said thank you!
The real weather problem in this area continues to be lack of rain. According to the locals, the Kuruschan river, which is north of the village of Tiege (now Orlovo) is dry for the first time in memory.  In fact someone dug a meter into the dry river bed and found absolutely  no sign of water. Recently a farmer cleaned out his old Mennonite well and found old artifacts such as medicine bottles and rusted tools.  This year selling hay seems to be one of the few ways of making money. People say the rains have gone east.
When travelling through the villages of Schoenau (Dolina), Fischau(Rybalovka), Lindenau (Lyubimovka) on the road from Molochansk to Melitopol, you see more abandoned buildings, less gardens, more weeds and the occasional roadside stand  with a bucket of small apples. The regional centres such as Tokmak and Melitopol seem to be doing quite well. Villages closer to the regional centres Lakekopp (which is absorbed into Tokmak), Petershagen (Kutusovka), and Halbstadt (Molochansk) are benefitting from the growth in Tokmak and from the closing of schools and services in other smaller villages. Lichtenau (Svetlodolinskoye) has residents who work in Melitopol. Car and truck traffic continues to increase on roads that were originally built to move farm equipment and light traffic. 

View of Tiege through window of  Maria School for the Deaf
I even discovered that someone in Molochansk is dealing directly with a factory in China making computer tablet covers with a keyboard. He has distributors in the Zaporozhye area. At times one feels that Ukraine is looking east, not to Russia, but beyond to China, Korea and Japan and south to the Middle East. The neighbouring kindergarten school just got a major makeover with new windows apparently funded with greenhouse gas emission allowances from Japan.  Koreans and Middle Eastern countries are investing in long term leases of land in the area.
The real challenge in Ukraine is ensuring that growth and development benefits seniors, the unemployed, youth and children. In the meantime we continue to make a difference in people’s everyday lives.

Restored Kindergarten School

Contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine by donating to “Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine".  All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer, 3675 North Service Rd, Beamsville, Ontario, Canada - L0R 1B1.
If you wish to donate online go to the website www.canadahelps.org, key in “Mennonite Centre Ukraine” and click on the search button. Then click on “View Profile” and then “Donate Now”.
Thank You!

Ben Stobbe


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