I traveled to Ukraine in September, 1999, to be part of the Mennonite Heritage
Cruise. We joined another 160 persons, primarily of Russian Mennonite descent, to
try to understand the area in which our ancestors had lived.
We were looking for a
feeling of the place -- the space from which our families had come to the
U.S. We had the opportunity to feel the time and place of
20th-century Russian Mennonites as well -- of people who had experienced life after
everything changed starting in 1914.
The following sections describe the trip which began in Kiev and traveled down the
Dnieper River, spending a day in Dnepropetrovsk (formerly Ekaterinoslav), several days in
Zaporozhye in the heart of the Mennonite colonies, a few days in the Crimea, and a short
time in Odessa. Click on the photos and links for more description and pictures.
We arrived in Kiev (Kyiv), a
good way to begin. The modern history of Ukraine began here with the acceptance of
Christianity and the construction of beautiful churches beginning in the 11th century.
On-board we had the pleasure of an introductory lecture by the Canadian
ambassador and a performance by a folk ensemble.
down the river After traveling overnight from Kiev, we stopped in Khanev at the
memorial of Taras Shevchenko, the 19th century poet and "father of
The following day we were in Dnepropetrovsk, once Ekaterinoslav, the home to urban
Mennonites who were often industrial leaders.
Zaporozhye was our home
for the heart of the tour. The city lies adjacent to the "Old Colony,"
Chortitza, and from here we took bus trips elsewhere.
The Zaporozhye/Chortitza section describes special events: a joint church service
with the Zaporozhye Mennonites, the famous oak tree, a visit to a school, a visit to a
museum and entertainment by the Cossacks.
was the heart of the visit. This colony held over 50 Mennonite villages at the turn
of the century. Upon going through our family history, we found that at least 24 of
the had been home to ancestry. We made a sampling of the Molotschna villages in two
days of bus tours.
A private excursion for four took us to the Borosenko colony where we found a different
landscape and the gracious owners of former Mennonite homes.
To the Black
Sea While making our way to and traveling the Black Sea, we shared writing and
painful memories and discovered Ukrainian foods in dachas.
produced a wealth of historical treasures from our base in Sevastopol -- Yalta and the
ruins of ancient Chersonesus were highlights.
Visiting the sites of the former Mennonite villages including Annenfeld whose history was
part of the Warkentin family history.
lies on the Black Sea at the end of our journey. We found history, lovely
architecture, the opera, and the contents of the archives.
In various places, the stories have referenced the individual ancestors who lived in
Molotschna. For those who may wish to see if there is a connection, you may consult
simple pedigree charts. Further details may be found at: http://www.theratzlaffs.net/history
Ken and Ginger Ratzlaff.