Last Words

The TM Russia/Ukraine trip is at an end, and our lovely group has begun to scatter across European airports.  Before we parted I asked participants to briefly type out personal highlights.  They summarize what was a remarkably rich time in Russia and Ukraine.  In my experience TourMagination always attracts such strong travel groupings, though this particular one was second to none.  We saw much, and though it is often overstated, I do believe that lives were changed.  Here follow a series of “last words,”  the highlights as identified by the participants themselves:

  • “Thank you all for letting me look from the outside at all of you finding your roots and all the family ties. It was quite an emotional experience from my perspective watching you all. It was amazing.”
  • “Eating fresh ripe pears off a tree in Nieder Chortitza where my grandparents lived.”
  • “Red Square at night.”
  • “Standing in front of my grandmother’s house where she lived when she was a teenager, the church where my great-grandfather was the preacher , and crossing the river that my family walked across on their way to the church.”
  • “Singing “So nimm denn meine Haende” in the Chortitzer Church Building.”
  • “Siemens hill.”
  • “Appreciate seeing people make connections with their family history; we did the same on our Swiss Mennonite trips.”
  • “Seeing Swan Lake in St. Petersburg.”
  • “This was our first tour group, our first trip overseas! Our gratitude to the entire group for gracious assistance when needed, and for being great companions. Special moments for me are being able to tell my father’s story, Swan Lake in St. Petersburg, cathedrals in Moscow, the five priests singing for us.”
  • “Spending time with my cousins in Zap. Touring the villages with them, collecting memories along the way. It is amazing to stand and walk in the places the ancestors lived. Finding a tile from a Mennonite House.”
  • “Spending time with Lois’ cousins in Zap drinking cognac.”
  • “Enjoyed our leaders, Len, Alyssia, and Olga,  Peterhof in St Petersburg, Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, and the men’s quintet in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, and walking the streets that my father will have walked in Rueckenau some 95 years ago.”
  • “The trip to visit our family homestead in Molotschna was very enlightening. It become an interest when searching some info for my kids and then quickly became a bucket list item. So here we are walking down the roads where my grandparents walked and picturing how the many difficult events would have happened at the various Mennonite locations. Very moving!!”
  • “Viewing Lenin’s well preserved body!! And the strict guards who kept you moving.”
  • “Visiting Molotschna and seeing where the Kleine Gemeinde church started. seeing the land of my ancestors.”
  • “The Kremlin in Moscow where all the decisions were made.”
  • “Palaces in St Petersburg.”
  • “Finding the original cottage cheese varenika. Hooray!! And the fleisch perishky and borscht.”


— Len Friesen

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