By Len Friesen, Tour Leader
Here’s the short course on what we did today: we spent the day touring one half of the former Molotschna colony, an area of about 20 by 30 miles, in southern Ukraine.
But that sort of reporting doesn’t say much, does it? How is this instead?
We gathered at one point at the Lichtenau Train Station in the vast Molotschna Colony. Built by Mennonites this station was the place were Mennonites goods were sent to market, where Mennonites left in sadness for emigration as they departed for Canada and the United States in the 1920s, where other Mennonites were herded onto cattle cars in the 1930s and sent into the Siberian gulag. It is a place rich in memory, and we considered the elegant “bench” memorials there that were designed and placed there by Paul Epp, and under the leadership of the remarkable Harvey Dyck. Lichtenau is associated with “So Nimm denn Meine Haende” (“Take Though My Hand oh Father), as it was sung on many occasions at partings. So today we gathered together and sang it in honour of all those who have come and gone from Lichtenau. For some in our group that hymn was associated with other tragedies as in family funerals, so the moment was deeply felt.
We gathered at the Mennonite Centre in Molochansk for lunch, where we heard of how Mennonites have worked hard for several decades here to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need; to Ukrainians, Russians, and really anyone who comes through the doors of this place. We heard of hospital visits, equipment purchases, educational assistance and so on. Many felt compelled to make their own contributions. Interested in doing the same? Check out their website at http://www.mennonitecentre.ca/
Random thoughts: Roads in disrepair, villages that have only a hint of their former beauty, lovely Ukrainians of all ages who engaged us in conversation at every stop, Olga’s expert leadership, a beautiful, warm, late summer day, and a group that is second to none. If you’re reading this and want a good supportive community experience on your next trip that is faith-based, I very much doubt that you’ll do any better than TourMagination.