“The Book and the People” – A Personal Review of a Year of “Land Abandoned”.


In the meantime, a year has passed since the start of the war in Ukraine. A year of immeasurable suffering for the people of the country. And for those who today have found their temporary home somewhere in Europe - in the hope that family members left behind will survive and that the cruel war will finally come to an end.

For me, things have changed since I participated in Menschenfreude e.V.'s first humanitarian aid campaign for Ukraine in March 2022. I developed a sense of the multi-faceted challenges refugees face. And I have developed a feeling for what it means for non-German speakers to find their way through the German bureaucratic jungle.
Menschenfreude Das Buch und die Menschen

I had a completely different experience with my book “Abandoned Land”, which I wrote spontaneously – deeply impressed by the experiences during our first humanitarian aid operation in March 2022.

Initially, I thought that the remarks of a literary layman on a “difficult” subject would hardly interest anyone. I was all the more touched by the great response in my hometown of Brühl – the first reading at the Brockmann bookstore was fully booked. Of course, I had a home field advantage; many friends attended the event.

Events around the Ukraine book “Verlassenes Land”: Impressions from one year

Readings & discussion evenings between Cologne and Bonn

More evenings followed between Cologne and Bonn in bookstores, city libraries, community centers and senior citizens’ homes. (More insights into an evening with Ukrainian guests and music: here.) Interest varied. Well-attended events alternated with less-filled rows.

Understandably, it’s not easy to win people over to this topic when Germany is playing Costa Rica in the World Cup or a balmy summer evening invites you to a beer garden – I’ve often decided this for myself in the past.

But – and this is another insight from the book project – it’s not the number of listeners that counts! Every single person who is interested is worth the event!

Contact established with numerous people

I met an incredible number of interesting people. People I probably would never have met otherwise. Lovable people from a deserted land. People who listened to me with emotion. People who challenged me with their questions. People with whom friendly relations have developed. People in the writing guild who wanted to know more so they could report on it in their newspaper. People from other charitable institutions who were looking for exchange. People who have supported me and thus the Ukrainehilfe von Menschenfreude e.V. in very different ways – by organizing a garden reading, children’s books in Ukrainian, surgical gowns for Ukrainian hospitals or a monetary donation.

And people I have come to know as special originals. I like to think of an old but young lady whom I met by chance through a “book contact” and who welcomed me with a hug in her apartment in Cologne’s Südstadt district when I brought her a copy of a book as requested. We ate potato soup together, drank Palatinate wine and talked about joyful and sad things in life. It is encounters like these that have encouraged me to continue to be active.

Ukraine aid continues in 2023 – new dates being planned

It is in the nature of things that within a year a certain Ukraine fatigue sets in for many. This is more than understandable. However, I hope that with my possibilities I will continue to be successful in promoting support for our Ukrainian aid. I look forward to the next events, including one at a vocational school. I am curious to see what conversations arise with the younger generation.

My wife Stefanie and I are in regular contact with Daria and her daughters, who play an important role in my book. The three – whose real names are Olga, Varvara and Stefania – now live in Bad Oeynhausen, the girls go to school and kindergarten, and all are now learning German. They are doing well so far, they feel comfortable and appreciate the helpfulness in Germany.

The picture was painted by Varvara – shortly after fleeing to Germany with our aid transport

We were greeted with smiles, warm hugs and homemade blueberry pie when we visited the family. The sad eyes of , meanwhile, give us an idea of the strain that the long separation from husband and father, family and friends must mean, always living in fear that loved ones might become victims of the war. Even if it is hardly possible, we try to bring joy to them and others in need with our actions – human joy!

(Dr. Knuth Martens, volunteer with Menschenfreude e.V.)

Further information about the book project and Ukraine Aid

  • Overview: Ukraine project page
  • Blog post about the book “Forsaken Land”.
  • Blog post: reading and conversation evenings.
  • You can follow the activities of our team on our social media, on Instagram and Facebook. Likewise, we are always happy to answer your questions. Feel free to contact us 
  • There will be more transports and relief operations to alleviate some of the hardship of the people. We continue to collect donations for this purpose. We will issue an official donation receipt for donations over 300€ or upon request. 

Donation account: Recipient: Menschenfreude e.V.
IBAN: DE41 6609 0800 0006 6116 99 

Oder per Paypal-Spende: www.paypal.me/menschenfreude 
Stichwort: Ukraine

Or via the donate button:


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