Sunday, May 14, 2017

A long awaited spring in Ukraine

Dear friends,

Our return trip to Ukraine was more adventurous than we anticipated when we found out that Austrian Airlines for some unknown reason, delayed our departure and arrival time by 12 hours.
We expected to arrive at the Dnepro airport at 1:40 pm.  This has been our landing time for many years.  This is a change in schedule, not a one-time change.  Fortunately, we were able to arrange for a taxi pickup and we took the 2-hour trip to the InTourist Hotel in Zaporozhye.  We got to bed at 4:00 a.m. Zaporozhye time.  Our brains and jet-bagged eyes didn't know whether we'd been enrolled in a sleep deprivation program or we were going for a Guinness record of no sleep.

On the next day's trip to Molochansk we stopped in at Vasilevka, the small town which hosts the impressive Popov estate with a museum of pre-Soviet artifacts.  Popov was a wealthy nobleman who built all his buildings in the form of castles.
Ben presenting a 1902 children's book

The museum gives a good image of how people lived in the 19th century in rural Russia. Ben presented an old Mennonite children's book.  The director of the museum, pictured here, was overjoyed to receive it.  We regularly keep in contact with this museum.

On our first full day in Molochansk we went to visit the medical clinic in Valadovka (Waldheim).  The former hospital administrator Dr. Troyan is a larger than life presence with a booming voice accompanied by strong opinions.  He is a wonderful person, but intimidating to some.  We had supplied medical equipment and building improvements to this facility when it was a hospital.  It is now an ambulatory clinic where the doctors and staff are expected to tend to the beautiful vegetable and flower gardens.  Dr. Troyan also goes to the front line to give medical supplies for the care of wounded soldiers.  In return, the soldiers have presented him with a Ukrainian flag with their thanks.
The Valadovka clinic has really been downsized because of the increased use of regional hospitals. This clinic has become specialized as an ambulance centre and also serves the local community needs by providing IV treatment and lab tests.  In the past year they have also used their extra space for internally displaced people (IDPs) who come from the war zones.  The clinic, like other institutions, has many mementos reminding people of the war.

Ruth with Tatiana
One of our major activities this week was to connect with English-speaking people who are interested in improving their conversational English.  In the past few years the schools have placed a great deal of emphasis on learning English or German as a second language.  We were privileged to have Ruth Derksen-Siemens and her husband Vic join us for 2 weeks here in Ukraine.  Ruth is a retired English professor from UBC and a current board member of the the Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine (FOMCU).  We visited English classes in schools and also met with Tatiana, the Dean of the Humanities at the Melitopol Technical Institute.  We found tremendous enthusiasm and support for having a camp or another type of specialized program to assist people in improving their spoken English.

Oksana and Lil with Svitlana
We also visited with Svitlana, who teaches music education at Melitopol Pedigogical University.  Svitlana is very interested in doing research on the history of Mennonite music in the 19th century.  We gave her some resource connections and also presented a music book from that period. She immediately started thumbing through the book and to her delight found a children's song in Russian which is still sung today.  The university in Melitopol has always been interested in our history.  There is clearly a new generation of musicians and historians who have a keen interest in our story.

Our week ended with an impressive band concert from the Molochansk music school.  They put on an outdoor concert for the seniors who come to the Mennonite Centre for lunch.  Most of the band instruments have been provided by you, our donors, and they are very well used and appreciated. Many of the band members played solo parts and were enthusiastically received by a clapping and toe-tapping group of smiling seniors.

It is good to be back!

Ben and Lil Stobbe

To contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine, you can make your donation to “Friends of the Mennonite Centre”.  All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer, 3675 North Service Road, Beamsville, ON, L0R 1B1.

If you wish to donate online, go to the website, key in “Mennonite Centre Ukraine”, and click on the Search button.  Then click on “V” for “View”, and “P” for “Profile”.  Then “Donate now”.

Please browse our new website at

We thank you,

Ben and Lil Stobbe


At 3:35 PM , Blogger Walter Unger said...

Good blog. Good work!

Walter Unger


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