Coming to the Mennonite Centre Monday morning rumours are confirmed that all schools and businesses are closed. The president of Ukraine has declared "A Day of Remem-brance" standing in solidarity with the people of Poland who have suffered such tragic losses. Coincidentally this day and also Sunday are already days of remembrance in which Ukrainians traditionally visit the gravesites of their ancestors to tidy the plots, leave brightly coloured plastic flowers and sip a little vodka. Commerce stands still in Molochansk and it is quiet at the Centre. We take our receptionist Olga to the cemetery to tend the graves of her husband and daughter.
Tuesday we visit the local Sanatorium, a rehab institution for children with heart and respiratory illnesses. This is a residential complex housing children from a wide area of Ukraine. Some spend many months in therapy and we are told that 47 children are permanent residents because they have no other home. The government pays for treatment but gives little further support. Children are taught regular classes. Teachers have minimal resources. There are also no funds for infrastructure - broken floors need replacing, no money for outdoor sports equipment, children's games etc. Through the years we have helped in many ways and will continue to provide support.
Wednesday we are invited to attend the Red Cross annual general meeting. We provide monthly support to this organization and are impressed to hear of the many ways in which they help people. They give us a certificate and express warm gratitude for our contribution. Wednesday is also the day our Mom's Group meets. This week we have a special guest who speaks to the hearts of our young mothers and encourages them. Some have very difficult lives.
Thursday is catch-up day, banking, shopping supplies for the Centre. Rudy installs a new faucet in the kitchen and washes the car. Currently we have no maintenance man. A student from the Ukrainian school comes for information. She is doing a research project on our building, the former Mennonite Maedchenschule. It's a delight to pass on historical material to interested young people.
Today is Friday. We arrive at the Centre and find a man waiting for us, obviously impoverished and very dirty. He has ridden 15 km. on a wired up and bound together bicycle to ask if we can help with transpor-tation so that he can bring his mentally disabled 14 year old son home from hospital in Zaporozhye. He tells us a little about himself. He has bone cancer. He shows his foot to one of our receptionists - she can hardly bare to look. He was given the diagnosis last November and showed us a document recommending amputation of his foot. He didn't have money and now the cancer has spread and he will likely lose his leg at the knee. He is wearing glasses, arms wired together, a lense missing and the other hanging crooked on his face - such a sad picture. We give him a sandwich and tea. In the meantime Rudy drives to Tokmak and returns with a new pair of glasses. A receptionist gives her own money to fix the bike tire. All he is asking is transportation money and we give him a little extra. Someone mentions that he is an alcoholic and we wonder about giving money. But this proves to be false. Much wisdom and discernment is required. By law medical care is free in Ukraine, but not so in reality. Doctors are paid so little that they usually won't help unless the patient pays.
In an hour the bike tire has air again, the man can see, he has a little money, he is grateful and leaves on the two hour ride back to his village. Our minds can hardly perceive the poverty, sometimes there is so little we can do and once more our hearts ache.