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Russia & Ukraine: The Mennonite Story

September 4-16, 2013

St. Sofia's Cathedral in Kiev

With tour leaders Leonard Friesen and Audrey Voth Petkau

Experience the best of both Russia and Ukraine as we move from Moscow’s famed Red Square and Kremlin to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, high above the majestic Dnieper River. On the second half of our tour, we’ll engage with the Mennonite story in the Ukraine—past and present. The Mennonite experience will come to life when we visit the Stalinist city of Zaporozhye and former colonies, Chortitza and Molotschna, which were settled by Mennonites in the late 1700’s. We will gain new insights as the story is told within the rich context of Tsarist and Soviet history, as well as present-day realities and challenges. We’ll also hear about current Mennonite activity in the region as we dialogue with staff and clients of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) about their efforts to help Ukrainian subsistence farmers move from poverty to self-sufficiency. This tour has become a kind of pilgrimage for those of Mennonite heritage, but also captivates people with no family ties to the area.

Tour leader Leonard Friesen, Associate Professor of History and Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University and a member of Waterloo North Mennonite Church, will serve as the storyteller. Audrey Voth Petkau, co-owner and frequent TourMagination tour leader, will serve as the tour director.

Um zu sehen, diese Tour in Deutsch, klicken Sie bitte pdf hier.

Click here to view past blog posts from Russia and Ukraine.

Wednesday & Thursday, September 4 & 5
Our tour departs from Washington, DC (Dulles Airport) on an overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey, and will arrive on Thursday afternoon. We will travel to our hotel in the Old City and enjoy our first dinner together. This evening, we will walk to Taksim Square.

Friday, September 6
Following breakfast, we will drive to the Old City and visit the famous Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace, and meander through the Grand Bazaar, where we might find charming souvenirs. Then we’ll take a short flight to Moscow in the late afternoon. That evening, we’ll settle into the Delta Hotel for three nights.

St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow
St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow

Saturday, September 7
This morning we’ll take a guided walking tour of the Kremlin, including the Armory. In the afternoon we’ll tour Red Square, stopping at Lenin’s Tomb, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the GUM mall, which was built in the late 1800’s with a stunning glass roof and now houses 200 stores. After dinner, we’ll enjoy a circus performance.

Sunday, September 8
Our day will begin with a morning worship service. This afternoon we will visit the Novodevichy Convent, Sparrow Hills, and Victory Park. In the evening you will have the option to visit the Red Square by subway.

Monday, September 9
After a short flight to Kiev, Ukraine, we’ll tour the city, including a visit to St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, where we’ll feast our eyes on the colorful mosaics and paintings that adorn the striking interior.

Tuesday, September 10
This morning we will visit the Pechersk Lavra, a campus of cathedrals, bell towers, and cave systems that make up a historic, but still active Orthodox Christian monastery. After lunch we will view the absolutely stunning St. Sophia Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the equally beautiful St. Michael’s Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. We’ll also take the time to visit the market. After dinner we’ll board an overnight train to Zaporozhye.

The Old Oak Tree at Chortiza

Wednesday, September 11
Upon our arrival in Zaporozhye, we’ll freshen up and have a nourishing breakfast at the Intourist Hotel Zaporizhzhya, where we’ll be lodging for the next three nights. On a tour of the city, we’ll see the old oak tree (believed to be 700 years old), and the great Stalinist hydroelectric dam. We may visit the Island of Chortitza – including the cemetery.

Meeting Mennonites at Halbstadt
Meeting Mennonites at Halbstadt

Thursday, September 12
Today’s destination – Molotschna. We’ll tour former Mennonite villages and churches, including Petershagen – a church that was closed by the Communists and reopened 70 years later. Another stop will be the newly-established Mennonite center in Halbstadt, which conducts an impressive ministry of a variety of social services. We will also visit many other villages, which could include Gnadenfeld, Alexanderwohl, and Ohrloff/Tiege.

Friday, September 13
This is a free day in Zaporozhye. Explore, shop, meet with MCC representatives, take a nap, or travel with a local guide to one of the Mennonite villages that has special meaning for you. An evening of worship and fellowship with a local Mennonite church will crown the day.

A MEDA partner and her produce
A MEDA partner and her produce

Saturday, September 14
On our drive through farmlands toward Yalta on the Crimean Black Sea coast, we’ll stop off to learn about MEDA’s Southeast Ukraine Planting for Prosperity and Economic Rejuvenation project. We’ll meet subsistence farmers who are benefitting from this initiative to renew one of Europe’s former breadbaskets.

Sunday, September 15
On our final day of touring, we’ll wander the historic city of Yalta, visiting Roosevelt Street and Livadia Palace, and driving by the home of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. We’ll say farewell to our new friends over dinner.

Monday, September 16
Tour members will depart Yalta for home via Istanbul, Turkey, arriving in North or South America in the early evening.


Faithprint Wisdom Exchange

Our group will learn about MEDA’s Southeast Ukraine Planting for Prosperity and Economic Rejuvenation project. We’ll meet subsistence farmers who are benefitting from this initiative to renew the agricultural prosperity of Ukraine.

St. Petersburg Extension

September 16-19, 2013
Leader: Audrey Voth Petkau

Monday, September 16
We’ll depart Simferopol for St Petersburg by way of Istanbul, arriving in St Petersburg in the late afternoon. We will have a brief overview of the city, including the Nevsky prospect and Vasilievsky Island.

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood
Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Tuesday, September 17
Today we will visit Peterhof Grand Palace and Park – one way by hydrofoil. We’ll enjoy lunch in the gardens. In the afternoon we will visit the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood and Alexander Nevsky Monastery and Cemeteries.

Wednesday, September 18
This morning we will see the Winter Palace and the Peter & Paul Fortress. We will visit the Hermitage Museum. Following lunch, we’ll visit Kazan Cathedral. In the evening we’ll depart St. Petersburg for Istanbul, where we’ll stay for the night.

Thursday, September 19
Following a leisurely breakfast at our hotel, we’ll go to the airport to catch our flights back to North America.

For further information regarding the complete tour fare, please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . We would be happy to be of assistance.

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