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By F P Viljoen

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Subsequently, Shevchenko authored several poems stereotyping Mennonites as 'Germans' on the island, indifferent to Cossack honour20 - an ominous stereotype in light of the civil war atrocities to come. Shevchenko portrayed the Cossack inheritance as a call of freedom for all ethnic Ukrainians. Ironically, Khortitsa Island Cossack traditions of a decidedly social revolutionary and anarchic strain may well - along with social circumstances and the political vacuum in the region at the time - have helped shape the bloody outlook of the Makhnovites, bands of armed Ukrainian peasants, who raped, pillaged, and killed Old Colony and other Mennonites during a reign of terror in Southern Ukraine during the civil war.

Yet despite the hint of superiority, we all maintained close ties. Even after Maria died, and Father had remarried, all of us children of this second marriage, considered Father's first wife's brothers and sisters to be our own aunts and uncles. Apart from Maria and one of her sisters, the tonier Rempel family siblings tried to make their fortunes outside of farming and beyond Nieder Khortitsa itself. Most returned to our village only briefly when they were flush with success or for longer stays when their financial balloons burst.

They were the hubs around which Rempel's early life turned, and they form the setting for much of this book. The village of Khortitsa, with its churches, schools, pedagogical program, settlement administration, hospital, factories, mills, bookstores, commercial outlets, railway station, and much more, was the unchallenged centre of the Old Colony and of its daughter settlements. It was equally a religious, cultural, and institutional focus for the entire tsarist Mennonite world. For David Rempel, Khortitsa was home to prominent branches of his mother's family, including that of his maternal grandmother's clan, and the object of frequent family visits.

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