Ludmilla is a humble widow living in Prague, Czech Republic. She has survived two political regimes, the German Nazis and the Russian Communists. Her life has not been easy; she has seen much sorrow. However, over the years, Ludmilla has come to view her kitchen table as an altar of blessing. Because of her generous heart, her guests have found her cozy kitchen a place to rest, share food, drink, heartache—and, often—friendship.
A bronze plaque close to her house number invites passersby, often strangers, to come in, sit at her table and rest awhile. Some of the visitors have become friends who freely share their burdens and blessings.
Ludmilla does not discriminate in extending hospitality. All are welcome. Race, gender, age, creed make no difference to her. Today a friend Sima has come to visit her. She is burdened and freely shares her problem with Ludmilla.
Now you have a quick summary of the story above. You can see the full story and hear Ludmilla and Sima’s conversation on this 5-minute video:
Once upon a time
my Grandma Longenecker and Aunt Ruthie
welcomed strangers into their home.
They didn’t post a bronze sign, but they had an open door policy.
They hosted Phuong Le from Viet Nam, their first refugee “daughter.”
After Grandma died my aunt carried on the tradition
opening her door to refugees fleeing oppression.
Vietnamese, African, Serbian families
found food and shelter in her home.
I never met the woman whose last name was Zisalihovic. My sister Jean met her though and has recounted this true story to me.
What I Know for Sure
My aunt probably did not press her ear to the bedroom door to hear the widow’s prayers. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have stomped in bellowing, “Stop, this is a Christian household. You cannot pray to Allah.”
But I am certain she would have invited her and her son to Bossler Mennonite Church where they would be welcomed, even if the mother wore a burka instead of a prayer covering. They would have heard about the gospel, a message of love and grace.
Lutheran Social Services, who facilitated the effort to shelter refugees, gave my aunt a porcelain plate to honor her efforts. This gesture reminds us that regardless of race or religion, everyone needs a place to call home. Check the original blog post for more details
Take every opportunity to open your life and home to others. Romans 12:13 NIV
Do you know any kind soul like Ludmilla? One like my grandma, aunt, or mother?
Tell your story here.
Marian, you are so blessed to have had such a kind and loving and open family. Thank you for posting this.
Good morning, Jack! Thanks for the compliment. Growing up in E-Town, you may know some of my family. Yes, I am blessed! 😀
Good morning, Marian. Tales of kindness that go beyond borders of nationality, religion, and background–and here a bond found in their gender. Thanks for sharing. The video is marked as private.
It works now.
Sorry for the snafu. The status of the video has been updated. Thanks for alerting me, Merril!
I’ve changed the status of the video to “public” now, so it should be visible. Thanks for alerting me. And thanks for reading and commenting, always an early bird. 😀
Marian, you come from good stock! What a blessing! Growing up, we had missionaries staying with us. My parents often opened our home to guests. Often those guests included family who lived with us from time to time. (I have a large family.)
L. Marie, I often think if families were not generous with their hospitality, there’d be a lot more folks who are homeless. You parents were hospitable, just like mine. You come from good stock too. Thanks for sharing here. 😀
This post brought tears to my eyes. It is so important in these dark days we’re living in to be reminded that there are indeed good people in this world. Thank you.
Thanks, Liz. I try to shine a light on the “good” here. It may be just a candle in the void, but it still helps dispel the darkness. 😀
You’re welcome, Marian.
Good morning Marian what a great topic and great video. In today’s culture we need this great reminder that God lives through us. we are his ambassador. I am a product of the open door at the Longenecker’s. The Lord used Mom dad aunt Ruthie grandma Longenecker Mark and Bossler church to build my strength and love for God. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for loving me so much to put me in their home. And have 42 years of their love and encouragement.
When i would backslide and call Mom crying she patiently listened and she would remind me that God knows your weakness and this too shall pass. Trust in God repent and keep moving. Oh how i miss her wisdom. Especially today with all that im going through. Yet God has me in his hands and has answered every prayer. Through every trail there are blessings. Thank you Marian for being such a blessing to all your readers.
Almost every time you comment here you express gratitude for the gifts of my parents. When I read your comment today, I remembered that I wrote a blog post about your family and the Longeneckers. Your grandchildren Demetri, Inani, and Samantha are shown here as children: https://marianbeaman.com/2014/05/10/daughters-my-mothers-other-family/
It’s always good to hear from you: Thanks! 😀
What a beautiful soul. I’d love to call on Ludmilla. I believe there are many people like her and your family in this world. We simply need to open our eyes and set down our phones. Thanks for introducing her, Marian.
I’m glad you enjoyed meeting this kind soul. I am sure there are many Ludmillas in the world, but they don’t make the news often enough. Thanks, Jill! 😀
I remember reading about your grandma and aunt welcoming refugees in your blog and I still think it is a noble and admirable thing to do, especially in these troubling times. It is awful to think that people are still in need of refuge far away from home due to war and persecution, but it is also heartwarming to know that there are people like Ludmilla and your family to welcome them.
Fatima, I believe that we will hear more story about generous people since Russia invaded Ukraine. Yes, where there is war and persecution, there are the helpers. Thanks for recognizing that! 😀
Such a beautiful story of human love. We need to share more of this energy in our world and I’m glad to read again about your family hospitality to refuges from different countries and different religions. It’s a true act of spiritual faith. Many have forgotten how to care for each other, but Ludmilla and your grandmother and aunt (and you) remind us. Thank you.
Elaine, I’m certain that you read and commented when I first posted about my family’s efforts to help refugees. Thanks for visiting again. We both try to send positive energy from our blogs to the world, one in dire need of kindness. 😀
A lovely post, Marian one which shows that kindness still exists in this world..you come from a very loving and generous family who welcomed all into their home …what a big heart Ludmilla and your grandmother had thank you for sharing this kindness 🙂
You’re welcome, Carol. Yes, I’m blessed with a generous family. As I type this I remember too that your blog posts share the kind and good too, especially regarding food and good nutrition.
Ahhh bless you, Marian for your kind observations …I hope you have a blessed week 🙂 x
Marian — Oh, that we all had Ludmillas, Grandma Longenecker’s, and Auntie Ruthies in our lives. We need them. The world needs them.
We can make our world brighter, one story at a time. I’m glad this one resonated with you, Laurie! 😀
A lovely story and well worth sharing. In this time in our history we need love and kindness as presented by Ludmilla, your grandmother and Aunt Ruthie. Thanks for sharing this!
This story (and video) resonated with me, and I’m happy to pass it along. I’m glad you enjoyed it too, Joan. 😀
An uplifting post in these darker days, thank you.
My dad frequently brought “orphans” as he called them home for a meal or a few days stay. We never knew when it might happen, or who it would be. My mother was not overly pleased with these actions, but it was important to my dad to show no matter your station in life, there is a need to reach out. I learned the tolerance of patience, and heard amazing stories of overcoming adversity while sitting at our dinner table.His actions helped shape me.
Ginger, it’s so very true that acts of kindness are learned by example. What an indelible impression your generous father showed to his family. Thanks so much for sharing your own family’s version of hospitality. 😀
Entertaining strangers seems to be in the DNA of many Mennonite families, I have seen. I don’t think we ever had refugees per se but many visitors from abroad stayed in our home either for a short time (weekend) or a week or two, or two long term visitors from Korea who came to learn the poultry business. Kim stayed for a year and I think Chung did too. By and large, we enjoyed all visits except one, which I won’t name. Thanks for these memories.
Recently, our church had a sermon series on hospitality, and this featured video impressed me. Although I had to pay to purchase the video for my blog (copyright issues), I didn’t mind because the story and message is worth sharing.
When our children were young, we had our name listed in the “Mennonite Your Way’ booklet. We got a family or two to stop by. The ones I remember most were the group of European teenagers. They seemed to enjoy our home–and they ate a lot–ha!
Thanks for sharing your memory and for sparking mine, Melodie! 😀
What a beautiful story of open house hospitality! Ludmilla reminds me of my grandmother in how she dresses, how she looks, how she has her house with all the plants, and especially in how she prays! We had a wonderful hospitality experience when we visited Ukraine in 2012. Every year, Tourmagination groups visited an older Mennonite woman who had been sent into exile years ago and returned after the war. They left financial contributions for her, which she used to help others. Her married children continue to do this now that she has passed on. We, privileged tourists had the opportunity to visit personally in a Ukrainian/Mennonite home, share from our abundance, and have them, voluntarily, pass this on to others in need.
As you generally do, I was hoping you’d comment here.
And I wonder if you can translate the message on the plaque. I know you are multi-lingual and I’ll bet other readers would like to know what it says. Thanks for sharing your story. I can believe that customs of hospitality in Czech Republic would be similar to those in Ukraine. Again, thanks so much, Elfrieda!
I’m sorry, Marian, but I have no knowledge of the Czech language. I know a bit of Ukrainian/Russian, but mainly just expressions my parents used. At the time I thought they were Low German because they had become so much a part of their mother tongue!
That’s fine, Elfrieda; no problem. I thought I’d give it a shot because your are so linguistically skilled. I’m sure one of the words was God: “Gott.” That much I know!. 😀
Bless her, and your dear grandmother and aunt. The world needs more people like them. My grandmother’s home was open as well and she helped out many people over the years. Some took advantage of her kindness but she didn’t care.
Darlene, I have a feeling your grandmother was doing what she was doing for the glory of God and didn’t worry too much about people’s reactions. She’ll have her reward for sure. 😀
What a lovely and inspiring story! My husband’s late aunt Tessie was like Ludmilla and your grandmother, aunt, and mother. Tessie’s door was always open and the meals she served were legendary.
I just found these words in a tribute posted online:
‘Tessie was a survivor of the forced labor camps during World War II. Following the war, she immigrated (from Poland) to the United States. Tessie was grateful for this country and the life she lived here. Through it all, she never wavered or lost her faith in God. Her life could be summed up by her love for her Lord Jesus Christ, her unwavering love for her family, and her love for the United States.’
Although I never had the opportunity to meet Tessie before she passed, I have heard many stories about her generous, welcoming nature, from my husband and my stepdaughter. Her legacy continues, in my precious stepdaughter’s life.
My heart rejoices to read about Aunt Tessie, your family’s “Ludmila.” May her tribe increase. I am happy to read that her legacy continues, imprinted upon the life of your precious stepdaughter. I’m so thankful you shared this, Linda Lee. Thank you! 😀
Such an inspiring story, both Ludmilla’s and your grandma and Aunt Ruthie. What they shared was a love of God and the belief that they are instruments of God’s peace. I am humbled by people like these. I saw many examples of this kind of simple piety and generosity as I was growing up. How we need them today!
We share a common heritage, Shirley, one that reverberates with the wisdom of Menno Simons’ exhortation (1541) to meet our neighbor’s needs even at our own peril, and also that of St. Francis of Assisi, praying to be made “an instrument of your peace.”
Whether you are taking a break during your travels, or arriving home: thanks for checking in! 😀
We can all learn something from people like Ludmilla with a big and open heart. No judgment—just love.
Love conquers all–every single time. I see you practicing that on your blog and in your life, Pete. Thanks! 😀
Marian, I asked my linguist husband about the plaque and he used Google Translate and this is the result: “Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway”. Norway?? must be a literal translation. It probably is “Heaven” as you showed on the photo
I appreciate the follow-up here; tell Hardy special thanks.
Whatever the translation, Lady Ludmilla knows the source of her power. 😀
For me your grandma, aunt, and mother are nothing like the people who I’ve known. I admire them and appreciate you writing about them here. It does my heart good.
Ally, I like when a blog post hits a sweet spot. Growing up, I suppose I’d didn’t realize how special they were. Now, as I look back, I can tell their stories. Thanks for letting me know! 😀
A beautiful heritage of helping and hope, Marian. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for echoing an “Amen” to this. In this dark world, it’s good to share hope. You do that with your stories and your bright poetry. 😀
Thank you Marian for featuring stories of kindness, mercy, joy, hope and peace. We live in a complex world where anxiety and fear like to thrive. And yet, kindness comes calling and we feel the spirit of thanksgiving enfold us. I especially appreciated when Ludmilla said that we were representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank you for the introduction to Deidox Films.
Rebecca, I especially like your description of the story of as an example of “kindness comes calling.” The video was part of a sermon on Sunday morning, but when I tried to download it, I noted it was copyrighted. However, I didn’t mind spending the $20.00 for this gem. Thanks for adding to our conversation. 😀
Aren’t some people quite amazing . They have kindness in abundance whilst others can be so cruel . Kindness has always been the top of my lists when it comes to personality traits .
I don’t actually know anyone who is like the lady in your story or your family but I saw a feature recently on a program on T.V. of a lovely lady who ran a charity shop and one day was donated a chair to sell in her shop . It was just a chair like any other but people would pop in and sit on the chair and share their troubles .
They never sold the chair it became priceless .
Oh, my goodness, that chair is priceless. It certainly shows that people have a deep need to be heard. They were listened to when they sat on that chair. And that lovely lady deserves a star in her crown. You made my day, telling this story. I hope other readers read it and rejoice too. Hugs! 😀
I remembered reading about this beautiful post Marian. <3
Yes, this is a partial re-blog, but the story of Ludmilla is new–and reassuring. Beyond that, it helps restore my faith that there is plenty of goodness in the world, which is often not recognized. Thanks for checking in, Debby! ;-D
So true Marian. A lovely share. 🙂 x
Hi Marian, your grandmother and your aunt were very special people, it is wonderful that they showed such kindness and support of refugees.
My parents showed care in a different way: Supporting single mothers while they received psychological help and training for a job away from the big city. My mom and dad did this after their children (including me) all left home. One of the recipients, Gloria, sometimes comments on my blog post, as she did this week. It is heartwarming to reminisce about their kindness and try to push forward this example in our own lives. Thanks, Robbie, and have a great weekend! 😀
It’s so wonderful, generous, and kind of your family to open their doors to strangers, Marian. Just like Ludmilla. I wonder if she is still alive and doing this now, eleven years after the excerpt was filmed.
Stories like these make you realize that there is still good in the world. Hospitality is such a warming act of kindness, as we have been experiencing a lot lately as well. One day, I want to have a regular home, just so I can invite people in and return this precious gift!
I notice that you experience hospitality on the road and return the favor often. May you one day get your wish to have a home (without wheels!) so it would be easier to extend a different kind of hospitality. Hugs, and prayers, and all things good during the month of June for you and your sweet family. ((( )))
I first read your post on my phone a few days ago Marian and now at last I can respond to it on my lap top (I’m travelling). I watched the video which was totally heart melting and your picture of Aunt Ruthie’s St Augustine quote is really powerful. Have just written it out. A huge thank you … I would love to tell a story or two of such loving folks but am on limited data for the while.
Susan, how sweet of you to make such effort to read and reply to my blog as you travel. I know my mother, aunt, and grandmother would be totally flabbergasted if they knew how wide and far-reaching their influence has been. I have to think your kind blog posts and We-Are-the-World Blogfest outreach has been making a similar kind of impact too. Safe travels! 😀
Thank you for this heartwarming story, Marian! Your grandmother, mother, aunt, and Ludmilla are special blessings to this world. I can’t imagine having a sign on the door with open invitation to strangers. It takes courage and kindness to do it. Thank you so much for this encouraging post! 🙂
I agree, Miriam. I think the word “courage” is key here. In our country, some people may abuse the open-door policy, which Ludmilla seems to thrive on. She’s been doing this for years, apparently without incident. Probably she is protected by guardian angels.
Thanks for replying here. I’m glad you found the post encouraging. 😀
I’m sure Ludmilla is protected by guardian angels, Marian! I watched a YouTube news about a woman begging for money and afterward she drove a Mercedes away. I’m careful when organizations ask for donations. 😃
Me too! (Thanks for the follow-up.) 😀
You’re welcome, Marian. 🙂