I took this picture four years ago while travelling through the Mennonite colonies of Ukraine as part of the Mennonite Heritage Cruise. It was a rainy day as we navigated our way through the countryside of the former colony of Chortitza; I had no idea that four years later I would watch Russian tanks drive over these same fields; no idea that I would have to send messages asking colleagues and friends if they were still safe. It was also four years ago that I wrote the introduction to the book The Russian Mennonite Story. When I wrote these words, I had no idea how important this responsibility would become for those of us who share history with Ukraine:
[We need to understand] our responsibility to this land and its people. It is not enough to dip our toes in the Dnipro, take pictures of the remnants of former Mennonite buildings, and eat watermelon grown in the soil once ploughed by our ancestors. We have a responsibility—to ourselves, our children, and our ancestors—to engage with this story and with the land that produced it. This is not about dwelling in an idealized past, but rather contributing to the future of a place that meant so much to those we love.