Category Archives: Ukraine

Ten Abandonded Places

My friend Michelle, who lives in Hong Kong often posts photos of abandoned places she comes upon in the city. Another Facebook friend Jim from Pennyslvania, takes photos of abandoned buildings. Jim and Michelle inspired me to look back through my photos searching for abandoned places  I have photographed.

I was visiting Herschel Saskatachewan doing research for a novel when I photographed this abandoned barn

I was visiting Herschel Saskatachewan doing research for a novel in the fall of 2012 when I photographed this abandoned barn

This is only one of hundreds of unfinished and abandoned homes we saw in Jamaica

This is only one of many unfinished and abandoned homes I photographed in Jamaica in January of 2014

We were on a trip to Savannah Georgia when I photographed this abandoned house

On a trip to Savannah Georgia in 2006 I photographed this abandoned house

I chaperoned a student trip to Cambodia in 2011 and photographed this abandoned temple in Angkor Wat

I chaperoned a student trip to Cambodia in 2011 and photographed this abandoned temple in Angkor Wat

Of course the buildings in Pompei Italy were abandoned for good reason as I discovered on a 2010 trip to Italy

Of course the buildings in Pompei Italy were abandoned for good reason as I discovered on a 2010 trip to Italy

While biking in Yangshou China in 2005 I photographed this abandoned house

While biking in Yangshou China in 2005 I photographed this abandoned house

We drove by this abandoned windmill in 2011 in Ukraine. It was built by Mennonites.

We drove by this abandoned windmill in 2011 in Ukraine. It was built by Mennonites.

In 2013 we visited the abandoned cliff dwellings of the Salado people built in the 1300s in the Tonto Forest in Arizona

In 2013 we visited the abandoned cliff dwellings of the Salado people built in the 1300s in the Tonto Forest area of Arizona

In November of 2010 when we visited Bangkok I photographed this abandoned graveyard overgrown with weeds

In November of 2010 we visited Bangkok and I photographed this abandoned graveyard overgrown with weeds


Other 10 Posts

Ten Things I’ll Remember About the Ballet Going Home Star

Ten Favorite Things About Arizona So Far

Ten Remembrance Day Images

Ten Things About Tulum

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Filed under Arizona, Herschel, Italy, Mexico, Nature, Reflections, Thailand, Ukraine

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

Petershagen- Sand and Salvation

white sand in petershagenWhat am I doing kneeling down in a pile of sand? It is 2011 and I am in Petershagen Ukraine on the grounds of a Mennonite church in a village where my husband Dave’s grandparents, Margaretha and Abram Driedger and his father Cornelius Driedger lived in the early 1920s. I noticed a pile of beautiful white sand that Victor our guide said has been hauled to the church yard for a building project. He tells me there are many pits all around the former Mennonite settlement of Petershagen with this nice white sand. white sand in petershagen ukraineI am excited because my maternal grandmother Margareta Sawatsky Peters has talked about this kind of sand in an interview with my aunt Mary Fransen.

Grandma is describing her paternal grandmother – Anna Wiebe Sawatzky. “My Grandma was a very neat housekeeper- and her clay floors, carefully swept were always sprinkled with sand- very white sand. The sand which was swept together during the week would be washed and used to spray a pattern on the sidewalk from the house to the street. The sand sprinkled on the floors in the house was dry, but the sand on the sidewalk was wet. The sand added to the beauty of the house. Once the whole house and yard was swept and adorned with the white sand it was just lovely!!”

Victor is very familiar with this custom and says decorating the sidewalks with sand patterns was especially common in Mennonite homes in the Ukraine for holidays like Easter.mennonite church in petershagen ukraineBut we have come to Petershagen not to see sand but to see the village which provided  salvation to Dave’s grandparents Margaretha and Abram Driedger and his father, Cornelius Driedger when they were sure they were all about to die of starvation. Dave is pointing to the date near the roof top of the Mennonite Church in Petersagen which informs us it was built in 1892.

Dave’s Oma and Opa Driedger, Abram and Margaretha Driedger moved to Petershagen in February of 1922 and lived there for two and a half years until they left for Canada in 1924. Dave’s Dad was born in February of 1921 so he could have attended this church with his parents as a little boy although around the same time the Soviet government banned church attendance, so the church may have already been closed. 

map of the village of petershagen ukraineVictor our guide has a map of how Petershagen would have looked at the time Dave’s Dad and grandparents lived there. Across the street from the church is the property of some Friesens. Could it be Dave’s Great Grandma and Grandpa Cornelius and Agatha Janzen Friesen?

We know that Dave’s great grandparents fled to Petershagen when they had to leave their home in Schoenfeld, because it was too dangerous there with all the gangs of bandits roving the countryside and terrorizing the outlying Mennonite villages. Victor tells us that the Schoenfeld church was a daughter church of the Petershagen Church so the fact that Dave’s Friesen great grandparents took refuge there makes sense.

margaretha and abram driedger

My husband’s grandparents Margaretha Friesen Driedger and Abram Driedger with his father Cornelius Driedger and aunt Agatha Driedger Neufeld around the time they lived in Petershagen.

Oma and Opa Driedger didn’t join Oma’s parents immediately but tried to make it on their own after they fled from Schoenfeld. They had jobs in various places but the famine of 1921 came and their oldest child, Dave’s Aunt Kaethe had died of pneumonia and little Cornelius, Dave’s Dad was sickly and weak. So they went to live with Oma’s parents, the Friesens in Petershagen. Oma says in the notes of an interview with Dave’s cousin John Braun that if her parents had not taken them in at Petershagen she thinks all three of them would have died of starvation.

Our guide Victor with the plaque that indicates this was a Mennonite Church built in 1892

Our guide Victor with the plaque indicating this was a Mennonite Church built in 1892

The Mennonite Church in Petershagen was still an active congregation when we visited it in 2011. Nine elderly women from the village who had no one to look after them lived there and were cared for by the congregation members. people meeting in church in peterhagenWe peeked into the church and the pastor’s wife came to talk to Victor. Some of the church members were planning a summer camp experience they were going to offer to the children of the village. It appeared a form of salvation for the very old and very young was still being offered in Petershagen. 


Filed under Family, Ukraine

The Station of Tears

lichtenau train station ukraineBoth tragic and hopeful journeys began at the Lichtenau train station in the former Molotschna Mennonite colony.victor and dave lichtenau train station ukraineOn our trip to Ukraine we asked our guide Victor Penner to take us to the Lichtenau train station. It was from this station both my husband Dave’s mother Anne Enns and his father Cornelius Driedger set off for Canada with their families.
train station lichtenauThe Molotschna Mennonite Atlas says the original Lichtenau train station was blown up in September of 1943 by retreating German troops but it has been rebuilt. The first station house erected in 1912 was one of the eight stations on the very profitable Tomak Railway Line built by a group of Mennonite investors who wanted a way to get their agricultural and industrial products to market.

The Driedger family twenty years after immigration. My father-in-law in the centre and his sister Agatha to his left were both born in Ukraine

The Driedger family twenty years after immigration. My father-in-law  the tall handsome man in the centre and his sister Agatha to his left were both born in Ukraine

On June 23, 1924 one of the first groups of Mennonite emigrants leaving from Lichtenau, included my three year old father-in-law Cornie, his parents Abraham and Margaretha Driedger, his maternal grandmother Agatha Friesen and his little sister Agatha. They crowded into 45 box cars at the Lichtenau station. They traveled for six days to the Russian- Latvian border town of Sebezch and after clearing customs went to the seaport of Libau where they sailed on the Marglen to Antwerp Belgium, then changed ships to the Minenedosa which arrived in Quebec City on July 17th, 1924.

My husband's mother's family just before leaving from Lichtenau. His mother Anne is the little girl on her mother's lap.

My husband’s mother’s family just before leaving Ukraine from Lichtenau. My mother-in-law Anne is the little girl in the fancy bonnet.

It would be two more years before my mother-in-law Anne, her parents Gertrude and Heinrich Enns, her sister and brothers would also leave from the Lichtenau station for the long trip to Canada. on the train tracks at lichtenau ukraineVictor, our guide, pointed out the direction the trains with Dave’s family aboard would have traveled and my husband walked out onto the tracks to stand for just an imaginary minute ‘in his grandparents’ shoes’ as they would have faced the new direction their lives were taking.
victor with paul epp's chairs lichtenau train stationThere are two granite benches on the side of the station facing the tracks. Paul Epp of Toronto designed these functional works of art. His family also left for Canada from the Lichtenau Station. One bench recognizes the thousands of Mennonites who voluntarily departed from Lichtenau for a new life and freedom in North America between 1924 and 1929. paul epp bench lichtenauThe other bench is in memory of the thousands of Mennonites who left from Lichtenau between 1931 and 1940 because they were being sent into exile in Siberia, an exile from which many never returned. There is engraving on each bench stating that the Mennonite village of Lichtenau was founded in 1804 and describing both the deportation and immigration departures that happened at the station.
lichtenau train tracksApparently the Lichtenau railway stop was nicknamed The Station of Tears and I imagine it was. Tears of joy must have been shed by those leaving for a new life, tears of sorrow for those leaving for exile. dave and victor lichtenauI suspect however even those leaving for Canada must have had mixed feelings about saying good-bye to a way of life in Ukraine that had sustained their families for generations. Many also left friends and family behind and had no idea if they would ever see them again.

A newsletter published by the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta has a poem written by teenage girl named Susan Penner whose family left from Lichtenau on July 13, 1924. Here are some lines from her poem…………

The train is ready to depart,
Folks are coming from near and far,
On foot in carriages or wagons
The air is dusty, the heavens gray
At the station at Lichtenau.

The wind whistles and sings and whines,
A mother cradles her weeping child,
A samovar is set up for tea,
At the station at Lichtenau

The iron horse whistles;
Composure threatens our control,
We groan and sob, press loving hands,
One more glance towards our homes,
From the station in Lichtenau.
The bell rings out the first call,
The steps are lifted, the door
Is sealed, secured and barred.
The bell rings out a final time
With a jerk the train leaves – as people sing
“Go Thou Ahead, Oh Jesus Mine!”
Those left behind now wave goodbye
But cannot see through tear-filled eyes,
And deserted soon lies Lichtenau

Other posts about the Mennonite experience in Ukraine…….

A Family Story- Heinrich and Gertrude Enns

The Disappeared


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Introducing Visitors from India and Hong Kong to Mennonites

windmill steinbachOur friends Meena and Anil from Hong Kong and Meena’s sister Beena from Delhi, India are visiting us here in Manitoba. Today Dave and I took them to the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach to introduce them to Mennonite culture and history. We arrived around 12:30 so the first order of business was lunch in the Livery Barn Restaurant. traditional mennonite mealAfter we had explained what Mennonite foods like kielke and roll kuchen were- our guests chose a traditional meal of verenike with schmaunfatt, kommst borscht, platz, farmer’s sausage and brown bread made from flour ground in the museum’s windmill.  lunch livery barnThey declared the Mennonite food delicious and fortified by our hot meal we were ready to brave the cold rainy weather for a tour of the typical Mennonite village laid out on the museum barnsDave described how barns were attached to houses in Manitoba Mennonite villages to make it easier to feed and care for the animals in winter without having to go outside in blizzard conditions. The heat from the animals’ bodies also helped to warm the house. zwiebachWe had been trying to explain to our guests what zweibach were and luckily there were some of the two-tiered buns or rolls on the table in the house barn to show them. rhubarb plantsIn the house garden, Beena wanted to see the rhubarb. At lunch, she had enjoyed her rhubarb platz and wondered what kind of plant the fruit came from. There are no rhubarb plants in India. making manure bricksI wanted to show them this manure brick making machine. Demonstrating its use to visitors was my Dad’s job for many years when he was a volunteer at the museum. The early Mennonite settlers used the manure bricks for heating. meenaMeena made friends with some of the farm animals housed on the museum grounds. windmillWe toured the museum’s signature windmill wheat into flour steinbach windmillto learn how wheat is ground into flour when the wind propels the sails IMG_0170and causes the huge grinding stones inside to move.steinbach windmill

We posed for photos on the windmill’s windy room school mennonite heritage village museumWe visited the one room school and looked at the assignments for all the various grades written on the of manitoba mennonite heritage village museumAnil studied the map of Manitoba and was interested to see how many lakes there are in our tractors mennonite heritage village museumIn the transportation shed, Dave showed our visitors the kinds of tractors his family had owned and used when he was a boy working on their farm in southern Ontario. Here he explains to Anil how the steam engine ran the threshing machine.mennonite women monumentWe looked at the special monument built to pay tribute to the work of pioneer women. statue of mennonite woman by bill epp Mennonite pioneer museumBeena posed with the sculpture of a Mennonite woman by Saskatoon artist Bill mennonite heritage village museumWe visited the church and explained how men and women had sat on opposite sides and singing had been led by a vorsinger who stood near the pulpit. sod house or zemlin mennonite heritage village museumBefore the rain began to pour we managed to sneak in a visit to the underground house made of earthen sod called a semlin which the first Mennonite immigrants lived in till they could build other homes.dave photo of grandfather in boat mennonite heritage village museumIn the main building, we learned about the history of the Mennonites in the galleries and Dave made sure to point out the photo of his grandfather in a boat on the lake in front of the Enns family estate in Ukraine. Our guests who all are originally from India, were surprised to learn that there are over a 100,000 Mennonites in India. quilt making mennonite heritage village museumMeena and Beena were especially interested in the women who were quilting quilt and crochet work mennonite village heritage museum steinbachand spent a long time looking at the crochet and quilting work displayed. quilts mennonite heritage village museumDave was eager to leave since he wanted to give our visitors a tour of Steinbach where we had lived for over thirty years before we headed back to Winnipeg where he made a pizza with Mennonite sausage for our supper. 

mennonite heritage village museumDave and I had not been to the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum since our move back to Manitoba from Hong Kong and taking our Asian visitors on a tour was a great way to reintroduce ourselves to the museum and see all the changes that have taken place there in the last decade. 

Other posts about Steinbach……

An Alphabet For My Home Town

Kornelson School

I Was A Treble Teen

All My Puny Sorrows


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The Disappeared

the disappeared paul epp ukraineWhen we visited Ukraine three years ago we saw this sculpture in Zaporozhye in the heart of what used to be the Chortitza Mennonite settlement. The statue was designed by Paul Epp and built with donations from North American Mennonites who wanted a memorial to the former Mennonite presence in Ukraine.  Victor Penner our guide called it The Disappeared and I thought that was appropriate since evidence of the once flourishing Mennonite settlements in Ukraine is rapidly disappearing.  As you can see in the sculpture a woman, man and two children remain only in silhouette on this statue- their actual bodies have disappeared. the disappeared by paul epp ukraineThe statue looks like a family picture on a mantel piece, and on the base the Scripture verse Blessed are they that mourn is inscribed in Russian, Ukrainian, German and English. I believe the intent of the statue was to recognize the nearly 30,000 Mennonites who died in the 1930s in Ukraine due to famine, war, execution, overwork in prison labor camps or being sent into exile in Siberia. But I think the piece represents all the Mennonites who lived in Ukraine at one time,( approximately 75,000 just before World War I) including my grandparents and my husband’s grandparents who immigrated to Canada in the 1920s. Although these Mennonites made many important contributions to the history of Ukraine through their agricultural and industrial enterprises and their service as forestery workers and medics during World War I, a record of their important role in written and recognized Ukraine history is hard to find.

old schoolhouse gnadenthal ukraine

The school where my Grandma attended classes in Gnadenthal, Ukraine

One by one the buildings the Mennonites erected have been dismantled. Even most of their tombstones have been vandalized or broken up.

daniel peters tombstone ukraine

I stand beside the tombstone of the great, great grandfather Daniel Peters in Nikolaipol Cemetery Ukraine

Dave and I were still able to see some signs of the former Mennonite presence in Ukraine, but I doubt our grandchildren will be able to, should they decide to make a similar pilgrimage 50 years from now.

rowing on the enns estate

My husband’s grandfather and his family on the lake in front of their estate in Ukraine

When I read our ancestors’ accounts of the wealth and rich life the Mennonites enjoyed in Ukraine and I think about how all of that just disappeared in such a short period of time it makes me stop and think about which of the things we work so hard to accumulate in our lives have meaning or  lasting value. What are the things that won’t disappear easily?

cIt took ten years to plan for the erection of this statue The Disappeared in the former Chortitza Mennonite colony. According to our guide Victor Penner the local government demanded that many requirements be met in order to allow the statue to be placed here. A park with walkways and park benches had to be built around it as well as a playground for children. park in ukraine statue the disappearedIt was dedicated just over a year before our visit, but when we were there the park grasses were growing over the carefully laid out pathways. The park was filthy – garbage overflowing all the waste cans and beer bottles, cigarette butts and pop cans littered everywhere. There were no children at the playground.  So much time and money was spent on the statue and the park by North American Mennonites anxious to see their ancestors recognized in their birthplace, but now the maintenance of the site is already being neglected. Will this statue disappear as well in time?

Other posts about Ukraine……..

The Enns Family Story

Remembering Yalta

Feeling Sad about Odessa

Remembering Independence Square in Kiev

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Filed under Art, History, Travel, Ukraine

Feeling Sad About Odessa

Reading yesterday about the violence  in Odessa  made me incredibly sad. Odessa is such a beautiful place and I remember what a wonderful time we had there a few years ago. 

coffee in the park odessa

Coffee in a park while planning our walking tour

chickens for sale odessa

Outdoor market selling live chickens

night at the opera Le Boheme

Night at the Opera Le Boheme in Odessa

military men odessa

Military men on leave in Odessa

bakery odessa

What to have for breakfast in Odessa? Tough decision.

by the sea odessa

Dave after dipping his toe in the Black Sea in Odessa

wax museum odessa

Posing with Russian author Pushkin at the Wax Museum in Odessa

beautiful bride in odessa

Beautiful bride in Odessa

odessa sun bathers

Sunbathers in Odessa

opera house odessa

Walking to the Opera House in Odessa

public art odessa

Lovely public art on the streets of Odessa

restaurant odessa

Enjoying grilled vegetables and chicken with lavash bread layered with pickles and cabbage

Odessa the centre of everything

Odessa from which roads lead everywhere in the world

Hopefully, Odessa will return to a state of peace soon and visitors and citizens alike will be able to enjoy the beauty and charm of the city once again.

Other posts about Ukraine……

Remembering Yalta

Remembering Kiev

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Filed under Politics, Travel, Ukraine

Remembering Independence Square in Kiev

Yesterday protesters and riot police clashed in Independence Square in Kiev.  The police finally withdrew after a nine hour seige against the thousands of people angry about the Ukrainian president’s decision not to sign an economic deal with the European Union. The images of Independence Square in the media reminded me of our own visit to the square just two years ago when it was a much more peaceful place. 

Dave and our tour guide Victoria in Independence Square

Dave with our tour group and our tour guide Victoria in Independence Square

Man Feeding the Birds

Man Feeding the Birds

Globus Monument

Globus Monument

Dave finds Ottawa and the distance we are from it in the centre of Kiev

Dave finds Ottawa and the distance we are from it in Independence Square

Monument to the Victims of the 1932 Famine

Monument to the Victims of the 1932 Famine

Dave being interviewed on national television about our tour of Kiev

Dave being interviewed on national television about our tour of Kiev

Protestor in Independence Square

Protestor in Independence Square- June 2011

Statue of the Slavic goddess Berehynia the 'hearth mother'

Statue of the Slavic goddess Berehynia the ‘hearth mother’

Arch topped by Michael the Archangel

Arch topped by Michael the Archangel

Hopefully it won’t be long till Independence Square is once more a peaceful place.

Other posts about Ukraine……
Remembering Yalta
A Family Story-Heinrich and Gertrude Enns

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Remembering Yalta

Yalta is an important setting in the new novel The Wittenbergs by Sarah Klassen. I just finished reading it and it brought back memories of our stay in Yalta a couple years ago.

Dinner in A Turkish Restaurant

Dinner in a Turkish restaurant

Yalta is on the Black Sea

Yalta is on the Black Sea

Musicians on the Yalta Promenade

Musicians on the Yalta Promenade

Checking out Anton Chekov's House

Checking out Anton Chekov’s House

Waitresses laughing at Dave who asks them for help in his search for the best holopchi

Waitresses laughing at Dave. He asked for help in finding the best holopchi in Yalta

Churchill, Roosevelt and Lenin met at Lavadia Palace in Yalta to reorganize post-war Europe

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at Livadia Palace in Yalta to reorganize post-war Europe and figure out who would govern Germany in February of 1945

Dave forced me to make a loser sign over Lenin's head or he threatened that he wouldn't take anymore photos on our Ukraine trip

Dave forced me to make a loser sign over Stalin’s head or he threatened that he wouldn’t take any more photos on our Ukraine trip

People watching on the beach in Yalta.
little boy on the beachbathers in yaltawoman on beach in yaltateen girl on beach in yalta

Outside Massandra Palace

Outside Massandra Palace

Hugging one of the giant redwoods planted by Governor General Michael Vorontsov

Hugging one of the giant redwoods planted by Governor-General Michael Vorontsov

Trying nine of the fifty five wines made at Massandra Winery

Trying nine of the fifty-five wines made at Massandra Winery

Woman looking out to sea

Woman looking out to sea

My review of The Wittenberg’s

Other posts about our travels…….

Kayaking in Laos

India Assaults the Senses

A Walk in New York

Dancing in Shangri-La

Akaka Falls in Hawaii

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What’s A Break Event?

I’d never heard of a break event before I read Robert Zacharias’ book Rewriting the Break Event- Mennonites and Migration in Canadian Literature. The idea of a ‘break event’ comes from sociologist Robin Cohen and literature professor Vijay Mishra. They suggest communities forced to leave their country of birth often create a mythology around the trauma of the event that wrenched them from their homeland. Retelling the story of their dramatic dispersal affirms their identity as a community across geographical and generational lines. Jewish immigrants have their Holocaust story, Irish immigrants their potato famine story, Africans their slavery story, and Mennonites have their story of loss and suffering during the Russian Communist Revolution. That story has played a key role in the construction of their identity.

The cover of Rewriting the Break Event features a drawing of the 800- year old Chortitza Oak, a tree that is an important symbol for Mennonites because it is where they congregated when first arriving in Ukraine from Prussia.

At the Chortiza Oak in 2011

I visited the tree a few years ago and was struck, as was Zacharias, by the fact that it is almost dead and only standing because wires prop it up. Zacharias says that like the wires that keep that tree upright so the stories of Mennonite writers are supports that keep alive the memories of the Mennonite experience in Ukraine.

The former schoolhouse in my grandparents’ village of Gnadenthal- the only building built by Mennonites left in the village

During my visit to Ukraine I was reminded how evidence of the Mennonite sojourn in that country is rapidly disappearing. This lends added importance to the literature created by writers who describe the Mennonite golden age of prosperity in Ukraine and its catastrophic end during the Communist revolution. Zacharias says for many Mennonites that literature has become like a second set of Scriptures.

In Rewriting the Break Event Zacharias looks at five popular pieces of Mennonite literature. They all describe the same historical events but do so in very different ways. Some are theological narratives while others seek to define Mennonites as a distinct ethnic group and others explore the traumatic effects of the break event – the Communist Revolution. Which story provides the most accurate view?
Zacharias’ book is for an academic audience. It is not easy to read like Hans Werner’s The Constructed Mennonite another recent book that also explores how stories define us. If you haven’t read the five novels Zacharias examines- Al Reimer’s My Harp is Turned to Mourning, Rudy Wiebe’s The Blue Mountains of China, Sandra Birdsell’s The Russlander, Janice Dick’s Out of the Storm or Arnold Dyck’s Lost in the Steppe it is hard to wade through the detailed analysis of these works that comprise the body of this book.
The premise of The Break Event is an intriguing one however and I read the introduction and conclusion (which comprise almost half the book) carefully and with great interest.

My paternal grandparents both experienced The Break Event

I have listened to the spellbinding stories of my grandparents and my husband’s grandparents who were involved in some very dramatic episodes during the break event. Zacharias’ book was a good reminder that the varying narrators of those stories, as well as the different purposes for which they told their stories, greatly influenced the nature of their account of the break event they presented. Zacharias’ book also made me think about the way I am retelling stories of my family’s involvement in the break event to a new generation. What is my purpose in trying to keep those stories alive?
In his conclusion Zacharias reminds us our perspective on the Mennonite experience in Ukraine will continue to be influenced by the new storytellers who will explore it in the future.

Related posts………….

A Family Story Heinrich and Gertrude Enns

The Constructed Mennonite

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Filed under Books, Family, History, Religion, Ukraine