"Molochna 2004: Mennonites and Their Neighbours (1804-2004)":
An International Conference, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, June 2-5, 2004


     The year 2004 marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Molochna Mennonite settlement in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine). To mark this historic anniversary, scholars from eight countries on four continents gathered in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, from June 2-5 for an academic conference entitled "Molochna 2004: Mennonites and Their Neighbours (1804-2004)."

     The first nine villages of the Molochna settlement were founded in the spring of 1804; by 1809 there were already nineteen villages. From 1819 to 1848 (the year of Johann Cornies' death) another twenty-seven villages were founded; between 1851 and 1863 another eleven were added"making a total of fifty-seven villages. The settlement also included a number of large private estates, including Juschanlee (J. Cornies, 1830), Steinbach (Klaas Wiens, 1812) and Felsenthal (David Reimer, 1820). By 1914, the settlement was the largest Mennonite colony in Tsarist Russia with a population of 27,127 covering an area of over 306,000 acres.

     The conference was originally scheduled to take place in the city of Melitopol (pop. 200,000), located some 150 kilometers south of Zaporizhzhia and only a few kilometers south of the original Molochna Settlement. However, just two weeks prior to the opening a serious fire, accompanied by large explosions, at a huge munitions dump just thirty kilometers northwest of Melitopol and a few kilometers across the Molochnaia River from the former Mennonite village of Lichtenau (Svietlodolinsk) led to the shift of location from Melitopol to Zaporizhzhia. Another complication was the sudden illness of the main conference organizer, Harvey Dyck from the University of Toronto, who had to be flown back to Toronto for treatment in mid-May. Other members of the organizing committee, including John Staples, New York State University at Fredonia; Nikolai Krylov, University of Melitopol; Svetlana Bobyleva, director of the Institute of Ukrainian-German Studies at the National University of Dnepropetrovsk; Walter and Marina Unger, the travel coordinators, Toronto; and members of the Zaporizhzhia Intourist staff, led by Larissa Goryacheva, stepped into the breach. All arrangements for the last minute transition were taken care of efficiently. The conference ran smoothly and associated events took place as scheduled.

     Scholars came from Austria, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Paraguay, Russia, Ukraine and the United States to explore all aspects of the history of the Molochna Mennonites and their interactions with their non-German neighbours. Unfortunately, there were no representatives from Bethel College, Canadian Mennonite University or Conrad Grebel College"all former centers of Russian Mennonite studies in North America.

     The conference began on June 2, with a dinner in the newly renovated banquet room of the Intourist Hotel in Zaporizhzhia. Special guests and dignitaries included Nikolai Novichenko, first deputy chair of the Ukrainian State Committee on Religion; Anatolii Striuk, deputy chair of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast Administration; and Natalia Derkach, chief administrator of Nationalities, Immigration and Religion, Zaporizhzhia Oblast Administration.

     John Staples, acting chair of the conference, presented the keynote address: "Putting "Russia" back into Russian Mennonite History: The Crimean War, Emancipation and the Molochna Mennonite Landlessness Crisis." He began: "Mennonite historians . . . have told and retold this story countless times, but even the best of them have told it as an exclusively Mennonite story. The landlessness crisis might just as well have happened in Kansas, or Manitoba, or Paraguay, so little does the broader context of Tsarist Russia intrude." Staples emphasized that the crisis was not only a "Mennonite" event, brought on by internal religious, social and political struggles, but rather part of a much larger economic and social crisis in southern Ukraine as a whole"brought on by external factors such as the Crimean War and the emancipation of the serfs in 1861.

     The conference program listed a total of thirty-seven papers in thirteen sessions, some of which were held concurrently. Several scholars, in addition to Harvey Dyck, did not attend, and only thirty-three papers were actually presented. The level of scholarship was generally quite high. Over two-thirds of the papers (twenty-three in all) were given by Ukrainian scholars from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia and Dnepropetrovsk and Russian scholars from as far away as St. Petersburg, Stavropol (Caucasus) and Omsk (Siberia). The contributions of these non-Mennonite scholars from Eastern Europe, based largely on their study of primary archival documents, have added new insights and perspectives to the Russian Mennonite story.

     The conference booklet provided summaries of two to three pages in Russian and English for most papers, so that all could follow the general content of the presentations. The subsequent question and discussion period of each session was conducted in both languages, with the help of an excellent team of translators. A selection of ten to twelve papers is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Mennonite Studies.

     Conference proceedings continued on June 3, with papers on "The Molochna Mennonite School Council" (Plesskaia) and "The Role of Mennonites in the Intensification of Steppe Forestry in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century" (Rudchenko). After the coffee break, two sessions were held concurrently.

     I attended the session on "Medical Care and Humanitarian Aid." Art Friesen (Vancouver) presented a detailed survey of the medical institutions developed by Mennonites in south central Ukraine prior to World War I. V. Reznik (Melitopol) reported on "Historical and Medical-Hygienic Aspects in the Establishment and Development of Mennonite Schools." He noted that Mennonite schools and classrooms were "the most spacious in the region," and "ventilation in Mennonite schools was better than in other schools." But Mennonite schools did not meet government standards on lighting"which led to conditions such as scoliosis, short-sightedness and fatigue"nor did their school desks correspond to the standards of the period; most students sat a long tables, rather that in two-seat or one-seat desks, as recommended by many educators. Piet Visser (Amsterdam) closed the session with a paper that provided valuable insights into the history of Dutch aid to Russian Mennonites during the years of famine in the early 1920s.

     Concurrently, Natalia Ostasheva-Venger, Marina Belikova and K. Lyakh presented papers on various aspects of Mennonite economic, industrial and agricultural development.

     On Thursday afternoon, I attended the session on the Revolution and Civil War period. David Sudermann (U.S.) presented an excellent paper on "The Halbstadt Days (February 1918)," providing for the first time a comprehensive and detailed look at events leading up to the brutal murder of five Mennonite men and one Russian youth by sailors from the Black Sea fleet and members of the local Red Guard on the weekend of February 16-18, 1918. The Red Guard included a number of Mennonite men, including a certain Kroeker who was identified as one of the triggermen. Alexander Tedeev, director of the Zaporizhzhia Regional State Archives, responded to the paper by presenting additional evidence of Mennonite involvement in the Red Guard from the files of men such as Abram Neufeld, Jakob Derksen and Johann Peter Kroeker.

     Svetlana Bobyleva spoke on the causes, character and outcome of the tragic events of the Civil War in Mennonite settlements of Southern Ukraine. She urged a fresh analysis of these tragic years, using sources that illuminate both sides of the story. A concrete example was the brutal massacre in the village of Eichenfeld on October 26 [November 8], 1919. We have a host of sources describing this tragic event from the Mennonite perspective. But what about the Ukrainian perspective" In the spring of 2001, prior to the dedication of the Eichenfeld Memorial, Bobyleva and her students from Dnepropetrovsk University interviewed some two dozen elderly Ukrainian residents of the region to get their viewpoint of the event. The general consensus was that members of the Yazykovo Mennonite "Selbstschutz" provoked real hatred by their actions, which led to this terrible act of revenge. Excerpts from these interviews can be found in Nestor Makno and the Eichenfeld Massacre, published earlier this year by Pandora Press.

     Concurrently, three papers were presented in the neighboring room: V. Babkova, a graduate student from Stavropol University, presented her paper on "Russian Understanding of Mennonites in the North Caucasus in the 1860s" which dealt with the first Mennonite settlement in the Kuban region. Irina Cherkazianova (St. Petersburg) presented a paper on "Central Schools: Discourse on the Russification and Self-Isolation of Germans in Southern Ukraine." Sergei Shevchuk concluded with a paper on "Johann Cornies" Educational and Scientific Activities in the Molochna Region." He noted that with the support of the Russian civil servant Peter Koeppen, Cornies was named a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1837. In this capacity he submitted a study of wells in the Molochna district, reports on the development of fruit orchards and tree plantations, an archaeological report on the excavation of thirteen ancient burial mounds and ethnographical studies of the Nogai and Duchobors.

     Early on June 4, conference participants boarded two buses for the two-hour trip to Melitopol University, where nine papers were presented. The first six focused on religious themes. John Staples presented a stimulating paper on "Pietism and Progress in the Molochna: The "Great Awakening" of Johann Cornies." Staples noted that "Pietism afforded Cornies access to an entirely new world view. . . [It] provided a vital mechanism to free Cornies from the constraints of his conservative Mennonite mentality and paved the way for dramatic economic growth." His contacts with the Moravian Brethren and the German Erweckungsbewegung of the early nineteenth century led to increased contact with the secular world, including the economic realities of his Russian environment. The creation of the Agricultural Society must be considered in the light of this religious awakening.

     Oksana Besnosova asked the provocative question: "What Did P. M. Friesen Leave Out" Mennonites and the Orthodox Church in the Late Nineteenth Century." She noted that Friesen "is notably silent [in his history book] on the subject of relations between Mennonites and the Orthodox Church, and particularly the subject of Mennonite influence on Orthodox people." In the early 1890s, Friesen himself was ordered to appear in court to answer charges of evangelistic activity among Orthodox inhabitants of the region. Besnosova also noted that Mennonites made the strongest impression on the Orthodox not so much through their preaching, but rather by their sober and prudent lifestyle, their literacy and their singing. The choral festivals (Saengerfeste), which became a regular feature of Mennonite community life in the 1890s, were of particular concern to the authorities and came under regular police surveillance as early as 1895. A police report from 1905 states: "Russian sectarians have fallen under the influence of the Mennonites." The effects of this influence were already demonstrated in the 1897 census, when 647 "non-German" men declared themselves to be "Mennonites." In the years leading up to World War I, the Orthodox Church took advantage of anti-German policies to accuse its ideological opponents of exerting a "German influence" on the Orthodox population and turned the Tsarist police and the popular press against Mennonites, Baptists, Evangelical Christians and Pentecostals. Some preachers were exiled to Siberia, publishing houses were closed and government plans to restrict the religious rights of Mennonites were formulated. Under such conditions, P. M. Friesen"who tried to portray Mennonites as loyal subjects of the Tsar"was compelled to hide the true scale of Mennonite [Brethren] missionary activities. Besnosova concluded that "the study of archival records, which are still far from exhausted, shows that Mennonites had a much greater influence than is generally thought."

     Sergei Zhuk expanded on this theme by illuminating the cultural dialogue between Molochna Mennonites and local peasant dissenters, called the Shalaputs, during the 1860s. He characterized the Shalaputs as representatives of a type of Radical Reformation among Russian and Ukrainian peasants that influenced up to twenty percent of the rural population of southern Russia. They became the first pioneers of the Protestant ethic on the southern frontier and laid a foundation for future antidissident practices and discourse, including the later Stundist movement.

     Johannes Dyck (Oerlinghausen) showed how "the structure of the Russian Baptist congregations has a strong proto-type in the Anabaptist-Mennonite church structure as put into practice by generations of Mennonites." L. I. Sennikova reported on the effects of Soviet religious legislation from 1917-1941 on Mennonites in Western Siberia. She concluded that "Mennonites posed the greatest challenge of all German-speaking settlements in Siberia to Bolshevik policies of Sovietization and Russification."

     Astrid von Schlachta (Innsbruck), a specialist on Hutterite history, presented the findings of her research on the relationship between Hutterites and the Molochna Mennonites. The Hutterites settled in Huttertal, near the Molochna Settlement, in 1842. They had already given up community of goods earlier in their settlement at Radushcheva, north of Kiev, and in Huttertal they were integrated into the Mennonites" political, social and economic village structures. The unprecedented prosperity experienced by the best Hutterite farmers soon stood in stark contrast to the poverty of their fellow craftsmen and wage laborers, and produced bitter tensions in the community. As a result, they decided to return to their "former conditions" and establish a "Bruderhof." The traditional community of goods was reinstated in Hutterdorf in 1857, and in Johannesruh and Neu-Hutterthal in 1864. In the 1870s all Hutterites left Russia and emigrated to North America.

     The final session of the day dealt with topics of geography and interethnic relations: "The Role of Molochna Mennonites in the Formation of the Settlement Network of the Zaporizhzhe/Azov Region" (Nikolai Krylov); "Mennonite Landownership in Melitopol Uezd, 1889-1914" (A. N. Krylova); and "Bulgarians and Mennonites in the Northern Azov Region: Pages of a Common History" (S. I. Pachev). In the evening participants attended the opening of Paul Toews"s (Fresno) exhibition of 139 historical photos of the Molochna region in the Melitopol Regional History Museum.

     The final eight papers of the conference were presented in three sessions on Saturday morning. In the first session, Tatiana Plokhotniuk (Stavropol, Caucasus) reported on her discovery of the NKVD interrogation records of elder (éltester) Jakob Aron Rempel from 1936. He and some twenty other Mennonite men from the Trakehn Settlement were accused of "founding a counter revolutionary organization and promoting anti-soviet and religious propaganda." The interrogation records from November 20-27, 1936, present the Soviet [NKVD] interpretation of Rempel"s activities as elder of the Neu-Chortitza Mennoniten congregation [Shlakhtin-Baratov, Borozenko and Nepluyevka settlements] and as chairman of the "Kommission fĀr Kirchliche Angelegenheiten" [KfK] of the Mennonite General Conference in the 1920s. He was accused of being a leader of the Moscow emigration movement in 1929, and of encouraging the Mennonites, and particularly their youth, to resist the Soviet atheistic ideology. He was forced to make a confession of his resistance to the destructiveness of the Soviet state. In April 1937, Rempel and several others were condemned to death, but his sentence was later commuted to ten years in prison. Unfortunately, Plokhotniuk had only limited access to German and Canadian sources on Rempel"s life (especially Hermann Heidebrecht"s excellent new life story of Rempel"Auf dem Gipfel des Lebens) and was unable to give a complete picture of the remarkable contributions of this great leader. She was also unable to report that he was shot in 1941, as German forces approached the city of Orel, where he had been imprisoned for several years.

     Viktor Klets (Dnepropetrovsk) presented a thought-provoking paper on "Ukrainian Mennonites During the German Occupation of World War II," which examined various levels of Mennonite collaboration with Nazi occupation forces during the years 1941-1945. This sensitive and controversial topic is rarely mentioned in the memoirs of Mennonites from the period, although we know that many Mennonite men joined the German army voluntarily, while others volunteered to serve as interpreters, or to take on administrative and secretarial positions in the German military administration of the region. Kletz claimed that "some documents evidence Mennonite service as overseers in the Dnepropetrovsk concentration camp." He concluded that "the largest part of the [Mennonite] population had a neutral attitude toward the new regime. . . . Mennonites in this group did not collaborate with the invaders, but at the same time did not struggle against them, even in a passive way." It is clear that much more research needs to be done on this area.

     In a concurrent session, L. I. Moskaliuk presented a paper on "Socio-Demographic Factors Determining Speech Behaviour among Ethnic Germans," while Gerhard Ratzlaff (Paraguay) reported on the "Continuation of the Mennonite Commonwealth in Paraguay: Parallels and Contrasts with Russia" and Peter Vibe (Omsk) spoke on "Mennonites in Siberia."

     The final conference session was dedicated to topics of musical and literary culture. I presented a paper on "Heinrich Franz and the Origins of the Ziffernsystem," which he introduced into the musical instruction in Mennonite schools in 1835, and which became compulsory in all Mennonite schools through Johann Cornies" curriculum reform of 1846. Tatiana Martyniuk (Melitopol) spoke on music education in general among the Slavic and German populations of the region, including music education in Mennonite schools.

     The closing word was given to the well-known Mennonite novelist Rudy Wiebe. As a young boy growing up in northern Saskatchewan Wiebe remembered wondering "what it would be like if one day, just as I turned the corner of the pasture with the cows, a huge car would wheel into our yard, Joseph Stalin would emerge and from under his moustache tell my father he could have his farm back in Russia, if he wanted it." Later, on the open prairie of southern Alberta Wiebe felt that "to touch this land with words requires an architectural structure; to break into the space of the reader"s mind . . . you must build a structure of fiction like an engineer builds a bridge or a skyscraper over and into space." Wiebe himself has been a leading contributor to this "structure of fiction," along with Al Reimer and Sandra Birdsell, and Arnold Dyck, Johannes Harder, Dietrich Neufeld and Peter Epp from an earlier generation.

     David Sudermann (Northfield, Minnesota) responded to these three papers and offered the following concluding observations: 1) Both of the Krylovs" papers as well as Rudy Wiebe"s call us back to the fundamental importance of place, of land and physical environment. 2) It is absolutely critical for us to look carefully at the relation between the actual landscapes and the landscapes of mind and memory, for once registered in memory, landscapes tend to shrink and lose a larger context. The first edition of Schroeder"s and Huebert"s Historical Atlas, for example, left out of the Molochna map everything west of the Molochnaia (more than thirty German settlements) and south of the Juschanlee. Martyniuk"s paper reminds us that the Lutherans in Prischib were also concerned with choral music. (There was, in fact, a pipe organ in the Prischib Lutheran church up on the Kolonistenberg, and Mennonites from Halbstadt found pleasure in hearing that instrument). But did the Orthodox church in Halbstadt have its liturgical choir" That we do not yet know. John Staples"s work, among others, is stretching back the landscape of memory to reintegrate the full range of environmental, ethnic and cultural layers. 3) Finally, the contracted landscape of memory may omit entire layers of the cultural landscape. These might include dress, photographic images, food, spirituality, interethnic relations. These and similar omissions from the full landscape might well form topics for our next conference.

     By noon, following the official conclusion of the conference, participants were on the buses heading for the dedication ceremony of two Mennonite memorial benches at the Lichtenau (Svietlodolinsk) Train Station. More than 120 residents of Svietlodolinsk (including several dozen schoolchildren, all waving Canadian flags!), together with some sixty or more conference participants and several groups of visitors from Canada, the U.S. and Paraguay, attended the dedication ceremony. The mayor of Svietlodolinsk and other regional government officials welcomed those in attendance; Paul Toews (Fresno) and Walter Unger (Toronto) gave short speeches, and Paul Epp (Toronto) explained the symbolic significance of the benches. A young man from the community sang a moving Ukrainian song, while conference participants formed a choir to sing the familiar hymns "Wehrlos und Verlassen" and "So Nimm denn Meine HĄnde." This latter song was often sung as a farewell both by the departing Mennonites and by their loved ones who remained behind on the platform. The tour group from Paraguay, led by Peter Klassen, sang the song "Glaube der VĄter" [Faith of our Fathers]. All in all, it was a deeply moving service.

     Many Mennonites left from the Lichtenau station for Canada in the years after 1924, and beginning in 1929 hundreds of families departed from the same station for an uncertain future in the labor camps and exile settlements in Siberia or the Far North. Two granite benches recall these two vastly differing fates. The benches were designed by Paul Epp from Toronto, whose own father left from Lichtenau station for Canada as a young boy in 1924. The text on the benches [one in Ukrainian, the other in German] reads:

     Mennoniten legten 1804 das Dorf Lichtenau an und bauten 1910 die [Tokmak] Eisenbahn, UrsprĀnglich Abfahrts- und Ankunftsort fuer Studierende, SanitĄter und Ersatzdienstleistende, sowie Treffpunkt bei Familienbesuchen, wurde der Bahnhof spĄter Zeuge schmerzhafter Trennungen. Von hier emigrierten in die 1920ger Jahren Tausende Mennoniten in den Westen. Zwischen 1930 und 1941 wurden weitere Tausende in den Osten deportiert. Der Herr ist meines Lebens Kraft, vor wem sollte mir grauen" (Psalm 27,1). Errichtet 2004 vom Dorfrat und dem Mennonitischen GedĄchtniskomitee.

     Paul Epp included the traditional symbol of the anchor, found on many Mennonite gravestones in Ukraine, circumscribed by a compass rose in his design. He writes, "In this case, the anchor within the compass is a reference to how faith [symbolized by the anchor] gives us our spiritual direction, just as a compass gives us our physical direction. Apart from the text, the other most significant symbolism is the placement of the two benches"separate but equal, facing the same direction; German and Russian"side by side, so to speak, going forward."

     This rail station was located on the Tokmak Railway line--a line designed and built by Mennonites in 1910. One of the builders of the railway was the prominent industrialist Franz Wall. Several of Wall"s grandsons (from Canada and from Siberia) were on hand to present a commemorative photo album of the railway to the mayor of Svietlodolinsk (Lichtenau).

     After the ceremony we returned to Zaporizhzhia for the evening. The next day, we left early again to attend the Sunday morning worship service and dedication ceremony in Molochansk (Halbstadt). The morning began with a worship service in the auditorium of the former Mennonite Zentralschule, now serving as a "Culture Palace," or community hall, for Molochansk. This proved to be a momentous and moving occasion, since it was the first religious service to be held in this auditorium since the Mennonites left over sixty years ago in the fall of 1943! The service was led by Jakob Tiessen, pastor of the nearby Kutuzovka (Petershagen) Mennonite Church, who spoke in Russian and in German. The packed auditorium included many local residents, members of the Zaporizhzhia and Kutuzovka Mennonite congregations, conference participants, and visitors from Canada, the U.S., Paraguay and Germany, along with regional state dignitaries and the Canadian ambassador to Ukraine, Andrew Robinson. Johannes Dyck spoke on the "love and hope of our Christian faith." Five familiar hymns""How Great Thou Art," "Great is Thy Faithfulness," "Nun danket alle Gott," "Gott ist die Liebe" and "Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe""were sung in German, English and Russian.

     Following the service, a dedication ceremony was held on the steps of the former Zentralschule for the Settlers" Monument, erected in memory of the Mennonite settlers who founded the fifty-seven Molochna Mennonite villages in the years after 1804. A crowd of at least 500 to 600 local residents and guests gathered for the occasion.

     The memorial was designed by Paul Epp and constructed out of granite by local craftsmen. The monument is in the form of a common threshing stone, turned on its end and set on a pedestal. Epp spoke of the meaning and symbolism of the monument:

     One of the most important roles of art is to make the common appear special. . . . Tools are common, humble. This is especially true of agricultural tools. What I have done here is to take the humble, the typically overlooked, and make it special through its presentation. . . Mennonites in Ukraine were identified by their agriculture. . . What better symbol of Mennonite agriculture than a threshing stone, where by the fruit of labour, the grain, was turned into a form that would not only make life sustainable, but whereby it could be celebrated [in the communion service]. The names of the villages have been inscribed on the facets of the stone. . . this encourages the viewer to approach the monument and to walk around it"searching for a village name . . . this circular movement is a symbol of the circular nature of life and history"constant change and returning to the beginning. Our return here, for the conference, is a circle from the presence here, earlier, of our ancestors.

     A choir from the music department at the University of Melitopol sang well-known chorales and familiar hymns""GroŠer Gott wir loben dich," "Nun danket alle Gott," "Wehrlos und verlassen," "So nimm denn meine HĄnde" and "Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe""accompanied by a small folk orchestra. Local and regional government representatives acknowledged the historical contribution of Mennonites to the economic and cultural life of the region, and gave thanks for the humanitarian aid and community support being offered through the Mennonite Centre, recently organized in the newly renovated former Girls" School of Halbstadt. Ambassador Robinson from Kiev, representing the Canadian government, announced a contribution of several thousand dollars towards the humanitarian and medical work being carried out by the Mennonite Centre. He also made some forceful and critical comments on election irregularities in the upcoming Ukrainian state elections. Canadian representatives have been appointed to chair an international commission to oversee election procedures. [Subsequent events in late November and early December proved that his forceful warnings in June were not out of place.]

     Mennonite representatives from Canada, the U.S. and Paraguay also spoke. The whole service was chaired by Steve Shirk, M.C.C. representative in Ukraine. It was a day that the residents of Molochansk will long remember.

     On Monday afternoon, the recently discovered tombstone of Samuel Contenius"friend of the Mennonites and Johann Cornies, and former head of the Guardians Committee"was unveiled in the Yavornitzky Museum in Dnepropetrovsk. Other memorials were dedicated in Vladovka (Waldheim) and Bogdanovka (Gnadenfeld). One plaque placed at the entrance of the former Mennonite hospital of Waldheim recalls the role played by Agnes and Cornelius Warkentin in the establishment of this hospital. Another plaque was dedicated at the local high school, which occupies the site of the former Isaak Neufeld factory in Waldheim. In Gnadenfeld a monument was placed at the site of the former Mennonite cemetery.

     There are now memorial plaques or monuments in eight former Mennonite villages " Khortitsa, Nieder Khortitsa, Eichenfeld, Borozenko, Lichtenau, Halbstadt, Waldheim and Gnadenfeld. In each of these villages the International Mennonite Memorial Committee has addressed not only the remembrance of the past, but also the very real humanitarian needs of the current residents, especially the young, the sick and the elderly. The memorials are a reminder not only that Mennonites once lived there, but that their descendants still care deeply about the medical, educational and social needs of their former neighbors.

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