What a difference a week makes. Looking through our kitchen window, facing east, we see hints of green appearing on the ground. In our yard at the Centre little yellow flowers are poking their heads through the soil. They actually pop up overnight. And the bees have already found them! Ukraine, literally, has the best honey. We always buy ours from a lady living next door to a heap of overgrown rubble hiding remains of Rudy's dad's school in the former Mennonite village of Fischau, now Rybalovka. Somehow, doing this, connects us more strongly to the land. The past few mornings we've heard the soft cooing of mourningdoves. Spring is around the corner.
Continuing our peek behind the scenes at the Mennonite Centre we see our houskeeper, Tanya Mickailovskaya, hard at work. Each day before we arrive at 9 she has already washed the floors as well as the outdoor entryway. She keeps the Centre as well as the flower beds meticulously tidy, going about her work in a quiet manner, never needing direction, always sees in advance things needing attention. When required she also serves as receptionist and coooking asssistant. Next week she will be whitewashing the tree trunks in the yard, in preparation for Easter. Tanya has been with us since 2005. She and her husband have 4 children and are also legal guardians to a niece. Tanya says she enjoys cleaning but what she likes best of all is the outdoor work. She likes relating to the people who come, and finds joy in knowing that she fulfils a needed roll at the Centre.
And people keep coming. On the days doctors hold clinics at the Centre the waiting area is full. People just used to show up, but now it's become necessary to book appointments. Several people have recently been to see us with dire medical needs, unable to afford prescribed treatments. Yesterday a teacher from the Ukrainian school came to request information about Mennonite history and architecture in our town. We were able to give her the translated chapter of Rudy Friesen's book which will be coming off the press soon. Her students are engaged in a research project and will be reporting back to us. At the end of January we were able to respond to a woman whose house had been invaded and her stove stolen. The thief, who has since been caught, though the stove had already been sold for metal, had damaged the door lock making it impossible to enter. Our mainten-ance man, was able to fix it. The woman in the meantime has been living with family. Baba Anna came back last week asking if we could help restore her stove, which also heats her house. She lives in extreme poverty, one side of her house entirely uninhabitable. We were able to procure the needed part and Baba Anna engaged her neighbor to do the repair work. We've been told that this man is an alcoholic - we'll try to monitor the situation.
We are continually amazed at the resilience of many people and what they do to survive. Some just barely survive. Next door to Baba Anna we see a man manually harrowing his field, two ropes slung over his shoulders. We've seen people cutting up pop bottles to use for fuel in their stoves and we shudder at the possible toxicity. There are those who poison their system with alcohol. And then there are those who for some reason or another are unable to survive. Early last week we were given a poster drawing attention to a missing person. Several days earlier a student at the Ukrainian school asked permission to leave the room. He never came back. Yesterday his body was found - he had hung himself. Resourcefulness mingles with tragedy. We live with this dichotomy and try to do what we can to help.