Wish Id Been There: A Professor
by Peter J. Dyck
I wish I had been at the Moscow Central Railway Station when
Professor Alvin Miller from Ohio arrived there in his underwear.
The year was 1920. The First World War, the Revolution and
the Civil War in Russia were over. Now famine stalked the land,
killing men, women and children. The New York Times reported
that people in Russia are dying like flies. The 120,000
Mennonites in their colonies were not exempt. I, too, was expected
to die soon as is evidenced by my fathers entry in his
diary that says Little Peter wont be with us much
Meanwhile a delegation of three men had been dispatched to
America to tell the sad story. Pauls statement that We
know that in everything God works for good with those who love
him, (Romans 8:28) was about to be realized. American Mennonites
met on July 27 in Elkhart, Indiana and organized the Mennonite
Central Committee (MCC) for the sole purpose of bringing food
to the starving Mennonites, and others, in Russia. Alvin Miller
was to be their envoy.
Miller left Paris by train expecting to arrive in Moscow the
next day. When night came he undressed, down to his long one-piece
white underwear, hung his clothing on a hook, and went to sleep.
When the conductor called out Next station Moscow,
Alvin awoke with a start, reached for his clothing, and discovered
that it was gone. Everything, including his shoes, had been stolen.
It was cold outside and there was snow on the ground.
Meanwhile a delegation of Mennonites had come from the Ukraine
to meet the first American relief worker and was waiting for
him in the central station. There was no Alvin Miller. Finally
they thought he might have taken a droshke, a horse-drawn
taxi, to the hotel. They went outside. What they saw in the first
dawn of the early morning was an incredibly strange sight, something
like a snowman or a ghost, darting this way and that between
the carriages. They investigated this unusual phenomenon, introduced
themselves to Alvin Miller, got some clothing for the poor American
professorand the rest is history. Except to say that Alvin
Miller had learned the first lesson in relief work: only after
you have received, will you know how to give.
Peter J. Dyck, at home in Scottdale, Pa,.
is well known as a story teller and advocate of Mennonite Central
Committee. Peter J. Dyck was born in Russia, moved to Canada
with his parents at age 12, and graduated from Goshen College
and Bethany Theological Seminary. He served as pastor but most
of his life was spent in service with the Mennonite Central Committee.
He is married to Elfrieda Klassen, has two daughters and five
grandchildren. Peter is now in active retirement in Scottdale,
Pennsylvania and with Elfrieda attends the Kingview Mennonite
Mennonite Historical Bulletin January 2000