Some of my earliest and dearest memories of Russia come from the small town (aka village) of Kuromoch, about 20 miles from Samara, near the airport. Here, at the home of my friend Vera’s mom, I had my first banya, my first sip of kvass, and my first (and best) shashleek meal. That was 14 years ago.
Yesterday I spent the day with Vera and her husband, Volodya, at this same little house in the village. Sadly, her mom passed away 4 years ago. I still carry the travelers icon she gave me in my wallet. Vera and Volodya live there now–since they sold their own apartment to help their son after a fire nearly destroyed their home last year.
We three put our feet in the warm water of the “Duck Pond,” stopped in the forest to smell the pine trees, and visited one of Vera’s friends, Tanya, whom I met a few years ago.
We also went to the cemetary.
This weekend is “Trinity” celebration in the Orthodox church (Pentecost for us Protestants.) One of the traditions is to spend time in the cemetary with loved ones no longer with us. To clean around the grave (this is the family’s responsibility here) and to remember. It was my great joy and privilege to partiicpate in this tradition for Alla Nikolaevana – a woman who showed me such generous and loving hospitality each time I came to her, and whose gift touched my heart in a special way. Her personal story was also remarkable. I wish I could remember all of it now…but she was a Georgian princess (or maybe the daughter of one …) who was kidnapped (or something like that…) I need to check with Vera.
In any event, again I was blessed with the opportunity to relax, rekindle a friendship, and reminisce our many great times in the little house in the village.