Sunday, 26 August 2018


Mary and I have completed our term as North American Directors at the Mennonite Centre in Halbstadt Ukraine.  We are now in Amsterdam for 3 days before flying home. It has been a busy and rewarding time in Ukraine.  Following are some highlights that come to mind.

The weather has been hot but not as bad as we had expected.  It turned out that the dire predictions of temperature in the plus 40 C (104 F) range were based on temperature readings that people had taken in the sun.  That was not our assumption when we heard the predictions and it made us expect the worst.  The hottest we experienced was 36 C (96 F).  That compared well to some temperatures back home in Winnipeg where they also had a heat wave.  We would be prepared to come back mid-summer again and enjoy all the fresh fruits and vegetables that the local gardens have to offer.

The Mennonite Centre hosted a wedding on our lawn last Saturday.  We were asked if they could use our facility as we have the most attractive setting in Molochansk.  Our lawn is green as it is the only lawn that has been watered.  We are also one of the few places with a lawn mower as most people use goats to trim their grass.  Not surprising that it is the best-looking place in town.  It gave me an opportunity to get a unique picture of our building.
Wedding at Mennonite Centre Molochansk

It was interesting watching the wedding.  As expected, everyone was very well dressed.  The attendants all were personally introduced before they walked down the grass aisle one at a time.  The outside of our fence was lined with uninvited locals who wanted to watch the proceedings.  The ceremony concluded with the release of two white doves by the groom and bride.  The talk in the town the next day was that the wedding had been for our staff.  That made for some interesting rumours and probably some consternation by a few locals who were surprised that they had not been invited.
Release of Doves

When walking between our office and apartment we always pass the house of Anatoli and Raisa.  They have had a special bond with all North American Directors.  This is somewhat surprising as they have no knowledge of English and have never come to the Mennonite Centre for any assistance.   I suspect that his personal link to us is that he is one of a few people in town who knows his history.  His grandfather had been a coachman for a prominent Mennonite business (Franz and Schroeder Machine Factory) in Halbstadt. Anatoli is very proud of that connection.

Anatoli’s wife Raisa died this past winter.  Anatoli is quite deaf and blind, but he did communicate with Oksana at the time that she should inform Alvin and Mary of his wife’s passing.  He has aged a lot in the past year.  He is now 91 years old.
Mary Anatoli and Alvin

Mary was walking past Anatoli house the other day.  Anatoli’s son and grandson were outside and recognized Mary.  The grandson has good English and asked us to come for a visit that evening.  We did not really know the son and grandson, but they had heard good things about us from Anatoli and we were treated royally.  The son is a veteran of the ill-fated Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  He fought there from 1982 until he was wounded in 1985.  Anatoli’s grandson is an engineer specializing in ferrous metals at the steel plant in Zaporozhe. They are all warm caring people and it is a privilege for us to see them as friends.

There are always challenges for us in the field of medicine in Ukraine.  They sneak up on you in surprising ways.  The last challenge involved medications.  Our local hospital has a new gynecologist. After giving women a mammogram and finding a cyst, she would give the women an expensive prescription and tell them that the Mennonite Centre would fund it.  The women would then show up asking for the money.  That is not how the process works.  People must apply for assistance and the Mennonite Centre must assess their financial needs and decide if the request is legitimate.  Mary being a nurse, was wondering why there was no follow-up procedure to the discovery of the cyst and what kind of medication would cure this condition.  After extensive research with the assistance of GOOGLE, it was determined that the prescription was a food supplement.  In fact, it was an extract from broccoli.  The Mennonite Centre funds medicine based on evidence-based treatment as is practised in the West.  These requests are all being declined, and people referred to a local market where they can buy their broccoli.

I have been writing these blogs for 7 years.  This will be my 48th blog that I am posting.  I have a good idea who many of my readers are but there are some surprises.  I have statistics by country as to how many readers there are.  The all-time total for the 10 top countries, breaks down as follows:
Canada                       17,879
United States              5,831
Russia                         4,154
Ukraine                       2,524
Germany                     1,004
France                         473
Poland                        328
Netherlands               258
United Kingdom         190
Japan                          133

I had no idea I had so many friends in Russia, not to mention Japan.  For those who don’t know me personally, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog giving me some clues as to who you are or what your interest is. That would be appreciated.

A rumour spreading through town is that the old guy from Canada working at the Mennonite Centre crawled into the tunnels under the old Mennonite Credit Union.  I am being stopped unexpectedly and congratulated on my stupidity.  Well, we all like to be remembered.

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:


  1. Just to let you know that I have also followed your blogs so there's one more country to add to your list...Ecuador. I have enjoyed all of the info you have given about your work there as well as some insights into my own roots. Many greetings to both of you. Elaine

  2. Дети благодарят и желают здоровья!

  3. Hello! I'm a great-granddaughter of Nick Fehderau, and I've really enjoyed your blog posts. Thank you so much for taking the time to document your experiences in Ukraine! Do you and Mary plan to return? I'm very interested in the history of the tunnels, and I'd love to be kept in the loop about any new discoveries that surface. If you can see my email address, please feel free to contact me there. Thank you!

  4. Absolutely wonderful post! What a perfect concept. Thank you HeroicReviewBlog

  5. Already the summer has passed! Are you coming this year? A resident of Molochansk.