Most of our days are spent working really, really hard on our Russian language skills. We have lessons, we do our homework, we seek opportunities to laugh at ourselves by trying to speak with Russians in Russian as much as we possibly can. After a while our brains need a break. About a week ago we decided to see some sites of St. Petersburg that we hadn’t gotten around to yet. We visited Alexander Nevsky Lavra, a monastery. There’s an interesting setup for getting into the church at the Lavra. Foreigners pay an exorbitant amount of money, and Russians pay nothing. We just don’t think that’s very nice, especially since we are living here. Thomas has tried to visit this church before, but he has always been spotted as a foreigner for one reason or another. Well, we decided that we would try to beat the system, and we did! We looked Russian! Hooray for us!
The church at the monastery was a fairly typical Russian Orthodox church. They had plenty of paintings of saints and pictures of a large Mother Mary with a little biddy Jesus. Of course there was the larger-than-life cut-out of Jesus on the cross, but that kind of freaked me out, so we quickly left the building.
What we found most interesting were the 3 cemeteries on the property (two of them everyone has to pay to visit. Foreigners, of course, have to pay twice as much as Russians do–we paid the foreigner price). One cemetery was full of military and political leaders. Several of the markers were riddled with bullet holes and shrapnel. There was one grave in particular that I thought was interesting, but first let me remind you of a little history. After the Revolution of 1917 and subsequent internal turmoil, the communists were in control. This of course meant that God no longer existed in Russian politics. Crosses adorned the top of nearly every grave before the time of communism. However, you could tell immediately just by looking at the markers, which graves held the bodies of the members of the communist times. One of the larger graves, more like a monument really was for one of the men who was pretty important during the time of the blockade, when the Germans had St. Petersburg surrounded for over 2 years. Naturally, this man was a communist, so there was no large cross adorning his rather ostentatious grave. However, on closer examination we saw a tiny little cross just about his picture on his marker. Thomas said it was if the man had said before he died, “Just in case we were wrong, I suppose that I should acknowledge God in my death.” (Of course, I’m sure he said it in Russian, so in 10 years I should come back and translate that sentence.)
We greatly needed and enjoyed that little bit of “time off”. As the weather gets colder and darker, it’s harder to have these little family outings. Please pray that God will continue to give us these little ways to recharge our batteries and refresh us for the work He has given us to do.