Saturday, 7 November 2015


Our time in Molochansk at the Mennonite Centre is over.  We leave on Sunday for Kyiv where we have a number of meetings.  From Kyiv, we leave on November 11 for Vilnius Lithuania to visit a friend at the Lithuanian Christian College.  Our time has gone by too quickly.  We have many memories to take home with us. 

It is always a challenge to work in a different culture and to communicate primarily through interpreters.  We have learned to cope with this over our four terms, but we keep on experiencing new situations. 

Mary has observed the many seniors arriving for our three weekly lunches that are provided at the Mennonite Centre.  Being a nurse by profession she wondered about the how clean their hands were and the danger of spreading flus and colds in the dining room.  Her simple solution was to suggest that we attach a container of hand sanitizer to the wall near the entrance to the dining room.  This led to some interesting discussions.  Our staff thought this was totally ridiculous.  Water would be splashed all over the floor and there would be a terrible line up at the dining room door.  They obviously did not understand the concept and thought we were suggesting a full hand washing station at the entrance.  Also, no one knew where to get any of this strange solution that we referred to as hand sanitizer.

Our next idea was to discuss this with a doctor and get their take on the concept of providing hand sanitizer to our guests.  Mary started off the discussion by explaining that hand sanitizer is available at all entrances to hospitals in Canada and that visitors are encouraged to use it to help prevent the spread of germs.  We got no further than that when the doctor declared the suggestion totally impractical.  Their office was already full of equipment because they had to share the space with a dentist and all the related dental equipment and they had no room for any additional equipment to dispense hand sanitizer.  Our biggest disappointment was in the lack of any curiosity on the part of the doctor to understand what we were trying to say.  We have no idea where the breakdown in communications occurred.  Was it our inability to articulate the solution, were our words properly translated, or did the doctor really not comprehend.  If you take the discussion literally, the bottom line is that there will be no hand sanitizer dispensers at the Mennonite Centre because the doctor’s office, back at the hospital, is full of dental equipment.  The real bottom line is that the seniors coming for lunch might not understand the concept any better and would refuse to use the product.

Our next example of a difference in culture comes from the care of seniors in personal care homes or hospitals.  Our organization does not operate a senior’s home but we are a major contributor to the privately operated home in Kutuzovka, our neighbouring village.  They used to share a building with the local Mennonite Church but now each has their own facility.  Molochansk Mennonite Church still has a close involvement with this senior’s home and provides funds as well as negotiates on their behalf for support from organizations such as ours.  The senior’s home is blessed to have a missionary from Germany by the name of Lilli Buss as the manager.  She was born in Russia, with Mennonite ancestry on her mother’s side and moved to Germany as a youngster.  She brings “strange foreign” practices to the work.  We were talking to Lilli and she complained of the state of health of people they were receiving from hospitals.  One lady came with many bed sores.  For Mary as a nurse, no hospital should be discharging patients with bed sores.   We learned that the nursing staff in hospitals see their work as dispensing medication – not providing individual care to patients.  If patients need to be turned to avoid bed sores, this is the responsibility of the family.  If family is not available the patient has to pay someone to have this done.  If they have no money, then they have to accept the fact that life is tough.  At the senior’s home in Kutuzovka, Lilli ensures that patient care is given to avoid bed sores.  This is the responsibility of the nursing staff at the facility. This is a new concept in Ukraine.  Thank goodness for some “strange foreign” practices being introduced.  As a supporter of the Kutuzovka Senior’s Home, the Mennonite Centre would like to support the continued improvement in care being given to seniors at this facility.
Seniors Enjoying a Game at the Kutuzovka Home

At our first Sunday service at the Molochansk Mennonite Church, they held a joint conference of all Mennonite churches operating in our area.  There were attendees from Berdjansk, Balkavoya, Kherson, Zaporozhye, and Nikolaipol.  The church was packed.  The pastor of our church decided to mark this important occasion by turning his back on the congregation and taking a selfie (yes that word has been incorporated into the Russian language).  It was a unique way of documenting an important event.  I just happened to have my camera in church that day and recorded the event from my perspective.

In previous visits we always had a special outing for the staff.  We would take them out for some fine dining (their choice was McDonald's) and a classy cultural event (again their choice was bowling and roller blading).  This time we could not find a good time slot to go out so we invited all staff to our apartment for a party.  We served them a non-Ukrainian dish of chicken stir fry on rice with a more traditional cabbage salad.  We showed the staff some pictures of our families back home and tried to give them some idea of what life is like in Canada.  Oksana was very busy interpreting all evening.  There was a lot of laughter. Mary and I feel a real bond with the staff.  It really feels like one big family at the Mennonite Centre.
Mary with some Staff Members

This may be my last blog.  Depending on time constraints, I may send one more, but I in case I don’t, I would like to say that it has been a pleasure to share our time in Ukraine with you.

If you wish to know more about the work of the Mennonite Centre, you can check out our web site at: or follow our daily activities on Facebook at:

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