Homecoming (I)

As spectacular as Moscow and St. Petersburg are there is something very special about the Zaporozhye area.  This morning after a brief night and following a true travel day we were ready to explore Chortitza.  Spirits were high as we left immediately following breakfast.  The 139th Psalm helped to set a tone for the day and so did Olga’s introduction to the region.  We drove down the street which was called “Lenin Avenue” for countless past tours and then stopped at the sight of the former Lenin statue.

It turns out that Mennonites are not the only ghosts here!

The heart of our day was spent in the search of former Mennonite villages of the Chortitza settlement, and it was somewhere between moving and joy-filled to watch family members on the tour find their way home to a village, a hillside, a riverside, or an ancient burial ground.  We passed through various villages though most on our tour seemed to connect with “Nieder Chortitza”.  Lunch followed at a restaurant on Chortitza Island, and then in the afternoon we set off again.  By the end of the day we had gotten a good feel for this settlement, and so many in the tour, from Lois to Annie to Adela to Elmer to Janet and on had had their homecoming of sorts.

A few of us went for an evening walk in Zaporozhye after supper, though we’ll want to head for bed soon as a big day awaits us tomorrow:  Molotschna and a second homecoming.

— Leonard Friesen

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