“Grandchild” of the 700-year-old Chortitza oak, located in Ukraine, finds home at Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park in Nebraska, USA

19 October 2018, 11:26 | Monitoring | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Jessica Votipka

York News Times, Aug 30, 2018

It looks like something out of a fairy tale, but the story of the Chortitza oak tree evokes stories that could put fiction to shame. “From the west they came to Russia. 

Pulling their wood oxen carts. Young men dreaming of land, and freedom to worship.”

Hundreds of Mennonites migrated to Ukraine’s Chortitza region in the late 18th century. They were greeted by an oak tree – already hundreds of years old -- with twisting branches, thick foliage and generous shelter beneath its boughs – two acres, some say. The old tree, now called the Chortitza tree or “The Mighty Great Oak,” quickly became both a new settlers’ gathering place and a landmark for many travelers passing through. Through the years the tree sheltered significant events, and was a part of many celebrations.

“’Twas only a century later, promises broken by Catherine’s descendant Czars.

Gave cause for great concern among the isolated colonies of Mennonites in Russia.”

Catherine the Great, Czarina of Russia, had in 1764 decreed in perpetuity basic freedoms to the Mennonite settlers in Ukraine: military exemption, language, religion and education. “Perpetuity,” however, lasted only so long. About a century later, Catherine’s descendants threatened Mennonites’ basic freedoms. Still, the Chortitza tree stood, overhearing beneath its branches the community’s worries, struggles and plans amidst the new threats.

“’Do we stay, take a chance and hope for the best?

Or do we go to a foreign land to start anew?’

Families were divided:

Some chose to stay in Russia near the Old Oak Tree;

Some chose to leave their home of only a hundred years.”

Many Mennonite families made the decision to go west for new opportunities – and hope. In 1874, 35 of these families settled in Henderson, Nebraska. The beloved Chortitza oak did not follow the settlers west – at least not right away.

“Two hundred years after they first gathered under the Old Oak Tree;

Descendants sharing stories and memories under the “Thousand-Year-Oak.”

Pondering the migrations in the last 200 years of our Mennonite journey,

Gathering sacred acorns to plant and scatter about the earth in far-flung lands, where now our brethren reside.”

Even a 700-year-old tree has limits, and about a decade ago the Chortitza tree began to die. The once-majestic branches that enveloped a community are now held up with poles and cables. However, for decades insightful tourists saved acorns that dropped from the Mighty Old Oak’s intertwining branches. Winnipeg peach farmer Abe Epp figured out how to foster the snuck acorns into a sapling. The resulting tree was planted at Canadian Mennonite University in 2006, in commemoration of Winnipeg’s John and Marian Friesen’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Sunday at Henderson’s Mennonite Heritage Park, a Chortitza tree “grand-sapling” found a home.

The special sapling was donated to Mennonite Heritage Park by Ron and Lois (Thieszen) Preheim. It was raised by Lyle Preheim of South Dakota, who was on hand Sunday to help plant the tree and offer information about how he raised the tree.

Before placing the sapling into its new home, 21 volunteers joined hands, encircling the young tree to represent the circumference of the original “Thousand-Year-Oak.”

“This addition of this tree brings the story of the Mennonites in Russia to our park,” Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park Chairperson Suzanne Ratzlaff said.

The Chortitza oak has been given a new beginning, and in Henderson its storied traditions live on.

“Here we stand today, around this little oak tree, a grandchild of the Old Oak Tree,

Vowing never to forget the journeys and trials of our ancestors,

Hoping to grow another ‘Thousand-Year-Oak.’

Can this oak tree survive through winter wind and summer storm?

Can we withstand the trials and triumphs of everyday life, of politics, religion and war?

Will we tell our progeny of our journey in another 700 years under this Old Oak Tree?

Just as surely as our ancestors had difficulty starting over in a new land, many times over,

May this oak tree live 700 years to tell the continued story of our Mennonite Journey!”

Система Orphus


Last comments

  • velovs@ukr.net | 16 January 2019, 08:55

    Так, і це - принаймні, великою мірою - правда. Разом з тим в тій Московії-Росії - все-таки - є і залишається якась певна кількість правдивих християн, що не зрадили і не полишили євангельської

  • velovs@ukr.net | 16 January 2019, 08:42

    Так те, що тут "роз'яснив" цей "грішник velovs", ніяк не суперечить, а повністю відповідає якраз тому, що становить суть і зміст цих двох основних заповідей Спасителя! Більше

  • bopa | 15 January 2019, 21:56

    Не забуваймо перші роки християнства. Рекомендую перечитувати "Діяння апостолів". Зрозумілішим буде суть навернення до віри християнської, яку московія зарила глибоко і далеко під час

  • bopa | 15 January 2019, 21:40

    Починаймо з основних двох заповідей Спасителя, а не з особистого роз'яснення свого розуміння для чого Він прийшов. Для цього є Святий Дух, а не грішник velovs!

  • velovs@ukr.net | 15 January 2019, 20:01

    "Не ходите, дети, в Африку гулять..." ------- Або передвиборчі гастролі по Україні арт-тріо у складі Порошенка, Філарета і Томоса... :)