Farewell Moscow

Sunday, 20 May, 2007

Having sung our impromptu grandstand performance in the heart of the Kremlin's Cathedral Square, we had to fend off a crowd of admirers who cheered us on for encores. Several ladies made requests, and Peter had to politely explain that we hadn't actually planned to sing and did not prepare concert repertoire (note to Peter: next time! They love that kind of stuff over there!!)

Now we had a little free time to wander the Kremlin, and then busses would take us back to the hotel so that we could rest a little and prepare for the big farewell banquet.

It was a relief not to have to immediately go to a trapeza right after church, which is the way things usually go on a special-occasion Sunday. After spending so many introspective hours inside the dimly lit Dormition Cathedral, it was refreshing to just meander about the grounds inside the Kremlin walls, to admire the stunning churches as well as the stunning weather.

There I am with the big Tsar Bell...

Anyone reading this blog who wants a tour guide's description of the Kremlin and all its

beautiful sights will have to forgive me -- by this point of the trip, I was so overwhelmed by all that we had seen and done, that I could not process anymore information abut what historic event had occurred on which spot, or whose holy relics were found in what church. It's the Kremlin, for Pete's sake!

As banal as it is, my greatest impression still had to do with the weather. It really seemed that God was pleased; we could not have enjoyed a more beautiful day. As we assembled near the gates, I treated the two Irenes (Gan and Mozyleva) and Peter to ice cream. Eating ice cream is a favourite Muscovy pastime, though, unfortunately, all I could find was the on-a-stick variety. No matter -- it was refreshing. There we are, having just finished our treats. Don't we look fresh?!

At this point, we headed back to the Universitetskaya Hotel to rest up and prepare for our evening. Quite a few people used that time to wander around Moscow, but I really needed to get off my feet for a while -- and I did. Soon enough, though, it was time to get ready for the evening.
I was feeling festive, so I decided to put on a little black dress and break out the bottle of bubbly that I'd bought in duty-free on the way over. I took it downstairs to the lobby, determined to share it with whomever came along. I must say, the staff at the bar was not very happy to loan me glassware (and refused to lend me the champagne flutes that were hanging on a rack above the bar, claiming they were dusty... I would have rinsed them!). But, my mood was too bubbly to let it really bother me. Chicago's Protodeacon Vadim joined me and Father John Whiteford, and I think Serge Shohov was there as well. With perfect timing, Peter came around, too. and I was all too happy to give him the celebratory glass that he deserved. But here I'll confess that I soon thought he was nursing his portion for a little too long -- and I ended up taking back a few sips!

The bus ride to the conference center where local ROCOR faithful were throwing the party for us was marked by an appropriately effervescent mood. We passed by the now-familiar sights: the Kremlin, Christ the Saviour Cathedral... on the way to a bright and modern business center in a remarkably well-kept and cozy neighborhood. This didn't look like the gritty Moscow, with its endless kiosks and broad, noisy avenues, that I had grown accustomed to. It was tree-lined and quiet; I will have to go back to explore neighborhoods like that one.

I suppose I had not realized just how many ROCOR folk were on this trip until I entered the enormous banquet hall. We had been housed in various locations during the week, and this was probably the only time that we were all gathered together for a meal like this. It was quite an event -- with wonderful pirozhki, I remember, and, of course, plenty of wine and vodka. Thankfully, the speeches were kept to a minimum, at least initially, but then, the local organizers, bless them, began to provide home-grown entertainment. This is such a Russian thing to do: all the children were put up to performing something, like a musical number on an instrument, recitation of a poem, etc.! I know it's meant to be charming, but, at that point, all anyone really wanted to do was share impressions about the week and catch up with friends and acquaintances -- so many of us were all in one place!!

I had a wonderful time with wonderful friends -- Egor Schatiloff and the Olhovskys (Deacon Nicholas and his wife Liza), the Papkov girls (that's Ksenia with me and Otets Vadim), the Ivan Larins, Zehnya Hrihoriak and I made many toasts to the events of the week, and to each other. But time and futher itineraries broke the party up all too soon: the Chicago contingent was heading that night by train to Kazan, and Egor and Kolya were accompanying Metropolitan Laurus to Kursk and Ukraine. It was time to start saying goodbye!

The banquet was not over,
but I was not enjoying the speeches and performances by the hosts, unfortunately. Luckily, one bus was heading back early. Most of my crowd took advantage of that; we headed back so that we could do what we really wanted to do: socialize! Time for a quick change of attire, so we could head back to "Durdin" -- the restaurant next door, where one last plate of pel'meni seemed to be called for.

I think just about everybody who had not yet left Moscow came out to Durdin that night. But, again, time went quickly, and some of us weren't ready to part ways when the restaurant started winding things down. My roommate and I had a solution, though: the wine we'd bought in duty free was calling, so we offered a nightcap to anyone who wanted to join us in room 1226.

That was a wonderful little gathering, with folks from both coasts and in-between: my friends Serge Chidlowsky and the Roudenkos (formerly of Boston) represented California; New Jersey offered us the sweethearts of Lakewood, Andrei Burbelo and Vasia Jaroschtuk; Fr.Andre Papkov was all the representation that Chicago/Midwest needed; Irina Andreevna Papkova, lately of D.C., joined in as well; and New York, of course, was well represented, with Nadia Mokhoffa and the Prince Starosta and alto-blaster Anya Pastuchova all joining in the fun.

But all good things come to an end -- and so did this memorable trip. I left the floor attendant a generous tip of kopecks and rubles and kleenex and cottonelle toilet paper and Wet Ones wipes, and Irina left her unused cosmetics and toiletries, certain that they would be appreciated. We boarded the bus on time and prepared for the journey back. Back to reality: we had a funeral to go to (Father Roman Lukianov had reposed on May 14th) and responsibilities to face, loved ones to greet...

My babies and their grandma and auntie greeted me at JFK, and I felt blessed. What a joy it had been to be part of history!


Meg said...

What a blessing it has been to be able to read all of this, and I have to add -- what adorable children you have! I hope we can meet again someday.

Fr. John Whiteford said...

I wish I had known about night cap in room 1226... :)

Cute kids!

Now... don't forget to tell us about your grand mother in more detail.