There was a plea in our church bulletin on Sunday morning to send donations to Mennonite Central Committee to help people in Ukraine. Winter is upon them and many families who have been displaced by the fighting in Ukraine do not have enough to eat, adequate clothing or a warm place to stay. The Mennonite Centre in Ukraine is providing coal, running water and paying the electricity bill for refugees sheltered in old abandoned buildings. It reminded me of how my husband’s grandparents took shelter in an abandoned school during the conflict in Ukraine in the 1920s.
Reading about the need for humanitarian aid in Ukraine brought back memories of an elderly woman we visited there. We met her in Schönfeld. Our guide Victor Penner brought us to the village because it was home to both my husband Dave’s Friesen and Driedger great grandparents and Schönfeld was where Dave’s Oma and Opa Driedger were born, grew up, and lived during the first years of their marriage. The woman makes her home in what is left of the old Mennonite high school in Schönfeld. Dave’s great-uncle Diedrich Unrau was a teacher there. This photograph shows what the school looked like in 1910 when it had 70 students and three teachers- a physics lab and four classrooms. The house we visited was the portion of the school that served as the main entry. Our hostess used her two walking sticks to show us where an artillery shell hit the house during World War II. It only knocked the clock off the wall in the livingroom and did no damage to the well- built former Mennonite school.The woman we met in Schönfeld,was feisty and lively but our guide Victor told us something of the harsh reality of her daily life. She has two daughters. They live and work in the city of Zaporozhye and rarely come and visit. The woman has a small garden where she tries to grow enough to eat in summer.She gets water from this well. Her rural community like many others in Ukraine does not have a regular police force so crime is a problem. There are few medical services in the community, electricity is available erratically, and the roads are in need of repair. The woman has no vehicle to get to shops. She heats her home with coal and wood.
Victor says he worries about her and always thinks she won’t survive the winter, but each spring when he brings new Mennonite visitors from North America to visit, she is still there. Victor always gives her some money before he leaves.
On Sunday when I read about the need for aid and assistance in Ukraine I was reminded of the woman we met in Schönfeld,and wondered if she is still alive and how she is faring this winter. I feel a little better knowing the donation we made this week to relief work in Ukraine, will help people like her, whose already difficult life is being made even more harsh by military activity in Ukraine.
Other posts about Ukraine…….