|I saw the Heaven of my Forefathers
den Himmel Meiner Vaeter
"I saw the Heaven of my Forefathers." Volk auf dem Weg, August 2006, 21.
Translation from the original German-language text
to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
There is much that still needs to be restored. Odessa is a case
that shows that the Tsars had a sense for art and that they invested
amounts of capital for it. All the while one must keep in mind that
provided a rich source of income for the nobles.
It is in the former Jewish synagogue where the City Archives are
today. There, the Mennonite researcher and historian Georg Epp of
discovered a previously lost Mennonite archive comprising 100,000
pages. It has
been securely transferred to microfilm. What a source for research
Ten Days in Ukraine
We have indeed changed our lives. We are grateful for God's guidance,
even if our paths have often ended up in the wilderness. We are
also grateful that our fathers delivered to us our awareness of
God, also for our Christian upbringing and schooling. We are likewise
grateful for those who did not shrink from accepting responsibility.
Grateful are we for the vision of our parents that Jesus is the
center of the community. At the homes of some grandmothers we visited
we were able to read on their walls some Biblical sayings, and it
became clear to us that piety is indeed a blessing!
How were our Forefathers able to Manage?
Out of nothing they fashioned the possibility for existence. They
were assaulted and robbed by nomads. Our people's secret consisted
in their unity in action - one for all and all for one! That kind
of village community made it possible for them to defend themselves;
it was thus that they had the necessary strength and were able to
exist and survive until an even darker power of the underworld (the
Soviet State) rolled over them in order to destroy them.
God desires peace. He desires peace of the heart and peace between
and nations. We all desire this banner of freedom, always and everywhere
where the sons of Menno live, lead upstanding lives, and proclaiming
Christian message in the spirit of the love of Christ Jesus.
The Three Grandmothers
We are in search of our brothers or - put in a better way - we
for the traces and roots of our brethren in the faith.
In Chortitza, a few meters beyond an oak tree, we discovered Tintye
She was no longer capable of speaking much German, but as we were
for various ways of trying to communicate, she burst into song:
"Gott ist die
Liebe, laesst mich erloesen. Gott ist die Liebe, er liebt auch mich!
is love, he allows me to be saved. God is love, he loves me, too!]"
Together we sang all four verses. And then she prayed as follows:
Heiland, mach mich fromm, dass ich in den Himmel komm! [Dear Savior,
to be pious so that I may go to Heaven!]"
It was a very touching scene. Even though she could no longer speak
language, the basis of our common faith was still there.
In the village of Hierschau we visited another grandmother, one
old. She told us how she had been exiled for ten years, and when
to her village, everyone she had known was gone.
"Aunt" Grete Plett has a Russian husband. We conducted
a brief devotion in
her home and prayed. On the wall we were able to read pious sayings.
house looks extremely well taken care of, the yard is swept clean,
small water container (rakomonik) has held water for washing hands
for at least
100 years. In the yard I observed three chickens scratching and
Well, that is genuinely Mennonite! Did time perhaps stand still
The bus stops and we see a well-cared-for home at the edge of the
village. Next to it there is a burned-out former collective farm.
Margarita Pankratz greets us in front of the house. She, too, has
husband. She tells us stories and is so happy to be able to be with
people. We give this grandmother small gifts, sing, pray, and then
Margarita could easily be our own grandmother.
The Fate of a Martyr
Before I end my travel report, I wish to report on a particularly
life of one of our brethren in faith. About preacher Martin M. Hamm
following (excerpt) is reported:
"Who could have foreseen that one's life and actions might
come to such a
quick end. Not even 50, he had to give up his life at the hands
of a murderer.
It happened on December 1, 1919, as the assaults of the infamous
gang visited our village of Schoenau.
The day before, other villages in our settlement area had been
costing many lives. A rumor had spread in our village that the Machno
retreated and that the danger might have passed. On the Saturday
death, village teacher Jakob Peters had seen my father and had asked
whether services might still be held Sunday morning, despite the
unrest. And my
father had replied: "Yes, if the Lord wishes to plow so deeply,
then we must
so put out, even more so, the seed of God's Word."
Then, very early on Sunday, the attack came. Father and many others
the village, but outside of town they fell into the hands of the
Even in the hour of his death, he was still thinking of the welfare
of others' souls. And at this, his last hour he witnessed the fact
that his son Franz, who had been captured along with him and had
been an eyewitness to everything that was happening, had converted
to the Lord. In some miraculous way, he would even escape death
after giving solace to those who became candidates for death: As
the robbers were about to kill him with their sabers, he witnessed
to the Lord with an open Bible in his hand: "Christ is my life
and dying is my gain." He did not fear his gruesome death.
[I believe the author has switched subjects at this point -- Tr.]
Soon after, his spirit left his body, and the bloody corpse lay
on the ground.
Was this Trip to Ukraine Worth All the Effort?
Was the far, far trip worth it all? All of our colleagues were
concluding as follows: We saw the soil, the prairie, the villages
forefathers, and we were struck silent when we thought of their
their history, which was written in blood and tears.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.