A woman from Steinbach is thankful to have the opportunity to interact with Ukrainian refugees who visited the Mennonite Heritage Village on Wednesday.

Elsie Kathler is with the Steinbach and Area Garden Club. Her great-grandparents moved from Ukraine to Canada in 1893 and they received a lot of support from Mennonites who had arrived a few years earlier, she says.

Kathler was working in the garden at MHV when a group of Ukrainian refugees toured the museum grounds, and she had the opportunity to interact with them.

“For me, it's a way of giving back,” she explains with tear-filled eyes. “When I see how hard it's there (in Ukraine), and I cry all the time, when I see how hard it is for the people that are coming here and how hard it is with what's happening in Ukraine, I'm just so terribly thankful for my great grandparents that they came here. They really had a difficult life when they came here because they were just itinerant farmers, they were not rich people. And so, they really had to work hard. And because of that, I have the gift that I have. So, interacting with them as a way of welcoming other people here.”

Kathler credits her Ukrainian roots for the gift of gardening and the skills she has learned throughout her life. The knowledgeable gardener says she and her family are determined to do everything they can to help refugees to settle into a good life here in southeastern Manitoba.

“I wish we could host them in our home, but we just don't have the kind of space for that. But my brother and his wife are doing that for two families right now. We're part of a group that's contributing towards the refugees as well, you know, so we do what we can.”

Kathler says her great-grandparents received support from local Mennonites and she wants to now do the same for newcomers today.