A Spreading Oak

sapling from the chortiza oak in cottam ontarioI took this picture of my brother-in-law, John, on our trip to Ontario in September.  John is standing beside a young oak tree in his backyard. The sapling was started with a cutting from a special tree.  It was grown from an acorn brought back to Canada from an oak in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. The tree in Ukraine is of historical significance to Mennonites because it was their meeting place or gathering place when they first came to Ukraine from Prussia. 

 When my husband Dave and I were in Ukraine in 2011 we visited the famous oak tree. Mennonites refer to it as the Chortitza Oak because it is located in the area that was once home to the oldest Mennonite settlement in Ukraine called Chortitza. The oak, which is 800 years old has died. It only stays standing now with lots of help from pulleys and chains. There are ‘children’ of this Mennonite tree in many places in Canada including on the grounds of Canadian Mennonite University where Dave and I met when we were students. 

People from Canada visited the oak in Ukraine years ago when it was healthy. They took home acorns from the Chortitza oak and planted them. Now they have given seedlings from their trees to many others. My brother-in-law John has one of these seedlings.  My parents-in-law were both born in Ukraine. Having a little piece of his parents’ homeland in his backyard is important to John.

A recent Mennonite history book called Rewriting the Break Event has the Chortitza Oak on its front cover. 

On our recent visit to Leamington, Ontario I also saw an oak grown from acorns from the Chortitza tree on the grounds of the Leamington Mennonite Home where my father-in-law is a resident.

chortitza oak donation plaque

Even though the tree in Ukraine has died, oaks planted from its seeds can be found in many different parts of Canada just the way the descendants of the Mennonites who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine, can be found in many different parts of Canada. chortitza oak cottam ontario

Other posts about Mennonites in Ukraine…..

The Station of Tears

Petersagen- Sand and Salvation

The Disappeared


Filed under Family, History, Nature, Ukraine

3 responses to “A Spreading Oak

  1. I love trees and I love this story. I tried to replant part of a lilac bush that had been at the base of my grandfather’s windmill in Ukraine. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive the transplant. (I need a greener thumb.)


    • Maybe you will be able to go back someday and collect another cutting to transplant. In the area where the Mennonites had lived there was only one windmill left in 2011 and it was no longer operational. At one time there were dozens and dozens of windmills. Have you ever been to the windmill at the Steinbach Heritage Village Museum?


  2. be careful about bringing in plant material from another country..there are regulations!!


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