Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The Mennonite Centre celebrates 10 years!  Last week we had the pleasure of planning and participating in a special commemorative event – the fulfillment of a vision born more than a decade ago when Mennonites started coming back to Ukraine.  A quick review - in the year 2000 the former Halbstadt Maedchenschule was purchased and restored to become a centre for humanitarian aid and development.
The first NA directors, Herb and Maureen Klassen, pioneered this effort in the spring of 2001.  They recall “all the hard work that was needed to clean those old bricks of years of white paint.”  Al and Peggy Hiebert replaced the Klassens in the fall of the same year.  They report, “when we arrived the restoration of the building was in its final stages.  With help of the staff we were able to employ, we began programs at the Centre.  The Pensioners Tea was the first ongoing activity.” 

Ira Kurukina, our creative, dedicated and hardworking cook, has been with us from the beginning.  Sadly, her husband Sasha, who worked for years as our watchman, passed away early last week.  We attended the burial service which was an intimate affair in Ira’s yard.  Pastor Jakob Tiessen and members of the church conducted the service; then we all followed the procession to the cemetery, led by a man carrying a large wooden cross. People commented later, saying there had been such a dignified, respectful atmosphere at the graveside - usually there is a lot of wailing.  The family had been comforted by Jakob Tiessen's words about our heavenly home where there is no more sorrow and no more crying.   

Vladimir Nikolaivitch Ulyanov and Elena Ivanova Potruh have been coming to the Pensioners Tea regularly through the years. Vladimir Nikolaivitch remembers the crowds that gathered for the dedication ceremony at the Centre and the Cossack show in the park.  He suffers from depression, lives alone and says that coming to the teas relieves his loneliness.  He is also a poet and often entertains his tea companions by reciting his poetry.

Elena Ivanova keeps coming primarily “to see her friends and to sing songs.”  She praises God for the opportunity.  Each month birthdays are celebrated; Elena has kept all the birthday cards she’s received through the years.

As well she is grateful for the glasses we’ve provided. Since 2009 we've dispensed more than 625 pairs of glasses to needy seniors. When not wearing hers Elena proudly keeps them in her designer case. She also expressed appreciation on behalf of
her granddaughter who is able to study at the Zaporozhye Pedagogical Institute on a Centre scholarship.

The work at the Centre has grown to include projects in outlying areas and recently also in the former Chortitza and Yazykova colonies.  Hundreds of projects have been undertaken for individuals and institutions, some one-time only, others ongoing.  Through the years eight couples have come as NA Directors to work alongside our Ukrainian Manager.  Thinking of our involvements I’m sure that all of us would resonate with the sentiments of Herb and Maureen -

“we have fond memories of spring in Ukraine, the warmth of the friends we have made there, the vibrant red tulips and fragrant lilacs that welcomed us, to the sunflowers that bade us farewell.  They remind us of the resilience of the people of Ukraine, who stand tall and bloom, their faces always turning to the Sun, inspite of the many setbacks and challenges they face."

With ongoing gratitude to our donors we have been able to alleviate some of these challenges, enabling people to survive and grow and blossom. It's been a rewarding decade!

For further updates on Centre activities and details of our 10th anniversary celebration check out the 2011 FOMCU fall newsletter that will be coming out soon.

If you wish to contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine make your Canadian cheques to "Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine" or "FOMCU".  Cheques from American donors should be made out to "MFC-FOMCU".  All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer,  3675 North Service Rd.  Beamsville Ontario, Canada  L0R 1B1  Check our website at http://mennonitecentre.ca/ for information on credit card giving.

1 comment:

Bev J. said...

Hi Rudy & Hildegarde ~

I am up early this October morning and suddenly remembered that you are in the Ukraine now! It has been most enjoyable to read your beautiful blog and to look at the photos. Sure love the one of Hildegarde with the sunflowers! I will share your blog with a young Ukrainian couple who are attending my Grief Share class at Cedar Grove Church. I know that they will be pleased to read it.

What a blessing to read about the work that you are doing
there! God is truly using you to be an encouragement...to
be the hands and feet of Jesus to many dear children and adults there. They seem to have so little, yet they make the
most of what they have. It is so good to learn about the abundant harvest this year. Praise the Lord for that!

Time sure has flown. I remember when the Centre started and when Al and Peggy were there. So glad to know that it is thriving and being such a lighthouse.

You two bless and amaze me! Thank you for modeling obedience in service to the Lord. Praying for you and the people there right now.

With love, Bev