A Short History of Four Mennonites in Ukraine (Documentary, 27 min, 2007)
English & Russian with English subtitles
A family pilgrimage to the old country, in quest of understanding, identity and faith, past and present.
My grandparents fled Ukraine/Russia with many other Mennonites in the early 1900s for Canada because of the lack of religious freedom imposed by the communist government. The expropriation of my ancestors's farms was one of the reasons for the move to settle on the Canadian prairies
and start over. This film is a personal documentary of my journey to Ukraine with my parents and brother to explore our Mennonite roots.
Is there anything left of the Mennonite footprint in post-communist Ukraine? The film follows my family from Canada, part of the Mennonite diaspora we retrace our family roots through interactions with local Ukrainians.
The journey takes us down roads lined with trees planted by the Mennonite people, through towns still marked by statues of Lenin, and markets full of harvested watermelons.
With the help of our translator we walk through villages in the Molotschna and Cortitza Mennonite colonies admiring the Mennonite architecture. We search the abandoned fields in the steppes of Crimea for remains of Mennonite settlements. While there is nothing left of our ancestor's estate homes, we discover the remains of the village well. The well is our connection to our Mennonite past, this well is lined with bricks and built to last; has our Mennonite heritage endured as well as this?
A sympathetic local historian leads us to the house of an aging villager who survived the Soviet collectivization farm era. He gives a tour of a overgrown graveyard as he tells stories of the Soviet era. The crosses on the graves have mostly been destroyed by the Soviets who wanted to remove all traces of Christianity.
At the end of our journey, we, the four Mennonties of the story, ask what it is to be a Mennonite in our age? Who are we? Are we Mennonites still outsiders like our anscetors, or have we avoided their alienation by living in the city and taking on the language and customs of our culture? What is left of the Mennonite people today?
- A look inside a Ukrainian village house in Kolodaizne, Molotchna
- A walk through a stone quarry in Crimea, the typical building materials of Mennonite village homes.
- Exploring the fields of Kiptchuk, Crimea
- Going door to door with the contemporary Mennonite churches of Ukraine