“Passing the Comfort:” Quilt Exhibit at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

On Friday April 11, 2011, with partners from the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and the Ministry of Culture, and alongside representatives from the Dutch, British and German embassies in Kyiv, I participated in the opening ceremony for the exhibit “Passing on the Comfort”. Other project sponsors include the International Menno Simons Centre of the Netherlands and the Mennonite Central Committee of the United States.

This exhibit brings together three stories with a common thread – an international network of Ukrainian, American and Dutch individuals who provided relief and supplies during and after World War II. Original hand-made quilts are displayed alongside never-before-seen archive materials from the Museum of the Great Patriotic War including photographs, letters and other objects sharing the stories of individuals who took great risks to help others. 

I was very touched by the story of the quilts sewn in the United States by volunteers and sent to An Keuning-Tichelaar, a Dutch woman whose personal convictions led her to resistance, including sheltering refugees from Ukraine.  As I wandered through the exhibit I marveled at the compassion and intricate network of relations that led to these quilts being sewn by the North American Mennonite community to be sent as war relief to Europe and to shelter, among others, Mennonites fleeing Soviet rule in Ukraine. The simple, handmade quilts are blankets that were created for warmth and could just as easily have been found on a bed as in a museum. It is the very simplicity of these homey objects that reminds us that heroism can come from individual acts of compassion and kindness.

In my opening remarks I mentioned the bravery of Ukrainian soldiers who fought during World War II and the hope that the generations who have benefited from their struggle never forget their sacrifice. This exhibit is a way to keep the memory alive and highlight the bravery and courage of many in the face of death and destruction. I ended my remarks this way: “Every generation has its battles to fight.  It is our hope that the story of these quilts inspires young people to ask what they might do today — in their own way — “to pass on the comfort.””

I encourage you all to take some time out of your busy lives and take a step back to this important moment in history by visiting the exhibit. “Passing the Comfort” runs through June 24, 2011 at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War; 24 Lavrska St., Kyiv.

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