Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter at Luba's

Luba's Paska (Easter bread) and red eggs (right).

My Easter window, with calla lilies from Severodonestk (my next blog will tell the story!).

On Saturday, while Luba was baking, a wild hail storm hit Starobilsk, knocking out power and sending Sergei and me outside to take photos. Hard to get a sense of it here, but that's hail on the ground, not snow. The sun came out briefly during the storm and splayed a lovely rainbow across the sky. It didn't last long, so I felt lucky to have seen it. A goodluck charm. Then it was back to grey and rain and hail. The lights came on about an hour later, and Luba went on with her Paska cooking.

Easter Sunday: Luba wakes me at 4:30 am, and we head out the door for church (the ancient monestary, now a nunnery) with our Easter basket. I thought we were going to walk (it's not far from the university and town center), but I was glad to see that Sergei was driving us. The church looked glorious, brighter than usual, as if a chorus of angels was beaming down on it. I prayed in silence, naming every family member and friends. Luba made the sign of the cross several times, lit a candle in remembrance of loved ones, then joined more than a dozen people out in the monestary courtyard, where she spread out some of the Paska and eggs, and a little bottle of cognac. We waited for the priest. He came by a few minutes later with a bucket of (holy) water and a bunch of pussy willows (I think they were), and sprayed our bowed and covered heads with water. "Christ has Risen," he intoned, and the crowd did likewise, three times. That was it! No mass, no sermon, no readings from screiptures, no music. Just being blessed. Same as last year, when I went with Valya in Chernigov. For me the simplicity of it seemed sacred, deeply personal.

Luba and I walked out the church to a waiting Sergei. I think we both felt truly blessed. I wondered why Sergei didn't join us but it seems that women predominate in celebrating these traditions and rituals. We went home, had our Easter breakfast, including 3 toasts with the blessed cognac, and then went back to bed for a few hours. It turned into a day of rest and relaxation.

Luba and I (dictionary in hand) sat outside in the late afternnoon, basking in the setting sun, practicing my Russian conversation. We talked about her garden, the things she was going to plant. Aren't you working in your garden today, I asked . No, not on Easter Sunday. Tomorrow.
I feel more comfortable with the language, not that I'm much more proficient, just more at ease.
It's that magic one year mark that more seasoned PCVs tell about. The PCVs in my Group 36 are coming full circle, celebrating a year in Ukraine on April 1, getting more comfortable, observing our second Easter, another spring. We begin again, our second year in a country we have come to love. Rebirth, voshroshdaynia, in a rough transliteration of the Russian word.

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