Sunday, September 01, 2019

In the Groove

WEEK TWO IN UKRAINE, 2019

Since the election of the new president and the parliamentary changes, Ukraine has been in transition.  Independence Day was on Monday, August 26.  Cities and villages saw people gather in the evening to hear singing and watch cultural dancing, celebrating Ukraine's independence from Russia.  The country has independence but is not necessarily united.  Many people have high expectations from the new government while others feel that it may not have enough previous experience.  We recently had dinner with a local couple, and both of them had very different views regarding the new government.

At the beginning of the week we had a visit from a senior medical person in the area who suggested that by the end of October, the government will announce whether or not the long-standing hospital in Molochansk will remain as a hospital.  He thought it probably would be a day clinic and continue on with the seniors' home on the second floor.  We heard a similar story from someone who suggested that the old Mennonite hospital in Zaporizhzhya would also be shut down.  Not unlike so many other countries, Ukraine is starting to consolidate medical services.

On Wednesday, we had a great visit with our good friend Yuriy, the Probation Supervisor in Tokmak.  Since the Probation Services conferences that were held last fall with BC Corrections Analyst Lisa Crawford, Yuriy has been travelling the country, holding seminars about the changes in Probation practices.  He has received a special award for all his work toward reforming the probation service and having their program accepted into the European Probation Union.



On Thursday we traveled to Zaporizhzhya. To try some different accommodations, we had decided to go into what we thought might be a type of an Air B&B apartment here in downtown Zaporizhzhya.  The apartment was built before WWII in the Stalin years.  The location is fantastic.  The apartment is slightly less so.  It takes a little getting used to accepting and working with half a shower curtain and finding about a half roll of 100 grit toilet paper.  But the bed is comfortable, and if you have enough layers of paint, the walls can be, and have been made very quiet.  The apartment itself is really quite safe; the knives are so dull that you can barely puncture a loaf of bread. But then the breaking of bread is best done by hand anyway. There is a lovely park right across the street and two very nice coffee shops right around the corner.  What else could we want?

On Friday morning we went to meet museum officials at the museum on Chortitza Island.  We wanted to hear from the museum director regarding their plans (and dreams) for the recently discovered Mennonite gravestones.  They had many questions for us as well.  While there are several gravestones that are virtually still intact, by far the most are broken into smaller pieces.  As of Friday they had 150 broken pieces with inscriptions on them.  They should have most of the gravestone pieces including those with inscriptions removed from the old barn site and taken to a storage area for further cleaning and matching.  The museum authorities are very excited about this project, hoping ultimately to use these stones as an opportunity of reconciliation with the Mennonite community.  Saturday morning we went to the site and watched while they excavated more stones and rubble.


About a month ago our organization was approached by a Ukrainian humanitarian organization to see if we could assist them in supplying backpacks for young students most of whom are just starting school.  These are children coming from needy families.  We funded 40 of the 70 backpacks given out. It is not surprising that when we arrive at occasions like this, Ben is asked to say a few words.  He soon had a microphone attached to his shirt, and a reporter there with his filming assistant, was asking him about our work and how and why we help these local kids. It was a public event held in a park in a stage area most often used for theatre and band performances.  It was delightful to see how the children so proudly hugged and donned their new backpacks.



On Friday evening, we went to the apartment home of our friend Yuri, who several years ago had turned his life of alcoholism and drugs around, becoming a major advocate for homeless, alcoholics and drug-addicted people in the city.  We provide some of the food ingredients for meals that he cooks, transports, and distributes to down-and-outers in several of the city parks.  Yuri has also formed a support group of individuals who have successfully gone through rehab and other dramatic life changes, and others who are in the process.  They get together with their spouses and their young children every Friday night at the home of Yuri and his wife to support each other, to have some time of socializing and reflecting on life, including spiritual values.  Some of these people have gone on to receive further schooling and have become chaplains in prisons.  This particular Friday saw a smaller group of about 25, everyone seated albeit a little crowded, into their apartment living room.  They have up to 35 in attendance.  There was plenty of good food spread on the table in honor of a participant's birthday.  Even though some of the sharing during this meeting drew tears, there was an abundance of laughter to be enjoyed as well. That's what defines many in this country - tears and laughter.



If you wish to know more about the work of the Mennonite Centre, you can check out our web site at: http://www.mennonitecentre.ca/ or follow our daily activities on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Mennonite-Centre-Ukraine-735361069838076/

1 Comments:

At 11:10 AM , Blogger Dennis & Donna said...

Ben & Lil,

Really enjoyed your blogs.The work that you are doing seems so positive!

As a former Probation Officer, I was pleased to see that this form of Corrections is still being promoted. At times, jail/gaol seems to be a simple solution, yet it is not very effective in the long run. Also very expensive! Probation in the community helps offenders learn to live positively within rules and laws.

Keep up the good work and the informative blogs!

Dennis & Donna Kent
Victoria, Canada

 

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