When we visited Ukraine our guide Victor Penner helped me find the gravestone of my great-great–grandfather Daniel Paul Peters in a Mennonite cemetery in Nikolaipol.
In this photo, you can see Daniel (1844-1905) with his wife Agenetha Friesen (1848-1919) and three of their thirteen children. The boy to his father’s right is my great grandfather Paul Daniel Peters.
My great-great grandfather’s tombstone says he rests in God and was born August 31, 1844, and died on September 17, 1905. Then at the top of the tombstone is an anchor, something I saw on many Mennonite gravestones in Ukraine.
I always buy a pair of earrings or a necklace as a souvenir when I travel, and to remember my trip to Ukraine, I chose a pair of anchor earrings because they reminded me of the anchor on my great-great grandfather’s gravestone.
I wasn’t sure however why the anchor symbol was chosen but I found out yesterday when John Longhurst wrote an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about a Mennonite memorial that has just been built in Zaporizhzhia Ukraine.
The new memorial contains fifteen Mennonite gravestones and many of them also have an anchor on them.
And right in the very centre of the memorial is a large anchor. Werner Toews, who spearheaded the memorial project, suggests in the Winnipeg Free Press article that the anchor on gravestones symbolizes the idea that your life has been anchored in your religious faith.
So now I know why there was an anchor on my great great grandfather’s tombstone and what it meant.