Ukraine Ministry - How it began

The history of the Mennonite people in southern Russia (what is now Ukraine) began in 1788, when the first group of Mennonites left Prussia at the invitation of Catherine the Great, to settle in what is now Ukraine.

They were given freedoms not extended to the rest of the population to entice them to come, with offers of free land and special privileges. Many came, and established themselves as farming and manufacturing communities in villages and groupings of villages referred to as colonies. The Mennonite communities thrived and prospered under these conditions with the establishment of strong congregations and self-government.

The small clinic in Morosovka is located within a church building, (which was a former Mennonite school) renovated after many years of neglect. It is now again a strong positive influence in this village.

Over the years, beginning in the 1870's, some of the privileges began to be challenged and repealed, causing the first significant migration from Russia to Canada. Following WW1 and the Russian Revolution the rest of the privileges were withdrawn, and collectivization began, again causing a major emigration to Canada and other parts of the world. (Much has been written about this elsewhere.) Many Canadian and American Mennonites have roots in Russia and what is currently Ukraine.

Ukraine achieved independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Although there was some freedom to travel in this region prior to that time, a new era in travel began, with Mennonites from Canada and the USA going back to find their roots.

In the late 1990's Mennonite tourists travelling to Ukraine in search of ancestral homes and villages found few people identified as Mennonites remaining, but many villages and buildings originally established by Mennonites remained intact, albeit many in poor repair. Many tourists came back with an overriding impression of the hardships suffered by people living in poverty, especially the old and vulnerable. Along with this impression was the resolve to help. But how could this be done?

This was the question addressed to the Mennonite Benevolent Society and Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Homes, who already had a mandate from their members to "nurture and express their faith by responding to the health needs of acute and long term care clients in a broad continuum of sites and services".

In the late 1990's, a decision was made to conduct a feasibility study in the city of Zaporizhzhya regarding a program to address the needs of seniors and others in need, living in that area.

Formation of "The Mennonite Family Centre"
In January, 2002, the Mennonite Family Centre was registered as a local charity in the Oblast of Zaporizhzhya. The Bylaws call for a five member Board to manage the affairs of this charity, which works through an Agency Agreement with the Mennonite Benevolent Society, to carry out the programs.


This large apartment block is located on Graznova Street, in the City of Zaporizhzhya. The Mennonite Family Centre is located on the first floor on the first entry, on the end of the building.   This is the entrance to the apartment block, and to the Family Centre.

The Mennonite Family Centre Mission
To develop and initiate delivery of health and social services programs, based on Christian values from a Mennonite perspective, in the Zaporizhzhya community:

  1. For needy individuals with a primary focus on the elderly,
  2. That train service providers and caregivers, and,
  3. That demonstrate and promote the principles of volunteerism, sustainability and a civil society.

Of this Board, 4 members reside in Winnipeg, with one member at large residing in Zaporizhzhya. An Advisory Committee, made up of three person living in the Zaporizhzhya community provide advice to the Board. A local Director has the responsibility for the day to day operations of the Centre.

In terms of facilities, the Centre, consists of three side by side apartments located on the main floor of a large 10 story apartment complex. These apartments occupy the whole main floor of the one entrance of this block, which is located in House #1, Graznova Street, in the city of Zaporizhzhya.

There is currently a total local workforce of 26 persons.

A core value for sustainability and effectiveness is that we work as much as possible with local people, enabling them to work at solving problems in their own community. We recognize that at the present time, this means guidance, administrative and also financial support is provided by the Mennonite Benevolent Society in Winnipeg. Financial support is provided through the contributions of the many supporters of this ministry in Canada and the USA.