MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS IN RUSSIA (2012)
For the Internet site «Mission d’Orient» by Fr. Lucas Chuffart, A.A., Moscow, December 2, 2012
During the 2011-2012 year, I was able to send some news from our communities in Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Israel where I spend a part of the sabbatical year I had been granted. It all began right where the Congregation did here in 1862, that is to say, Istanbul.
On November 22, after celebrating the dies natalis of Fr. d’Alzon with the Oblate Sisters, lay Assumptionists, and my brothers in the Lille community, I had an uneventful flight from Paris to a new airport in Moscow, Vnukovo.
First impression: very positive ---seeing the smile of Fr. Celeste, accompanied in the car by Ms. Irina, a friend of the community. They were waiting for me at the scheduled arrival time of 9:30 P.M.
Second impression: after a long drive between buildings that were hopelessly similar along interminable avenues, arriving in the center of Moscow, magnificently illuminated and all the restored buildings in their splendor: the Kremlin, the Orthodox cathedral of the Holy Savior, the Bolshoi theater, etc. But have the Russian people been able to evolve at the same rate? That remains to be seen.
Third impression: what I feel when we arrive «home» at the community, located in a fourth-floor apartment of a large building downtown.
Fifth impression: at 8 A.M. it’s dark outside (for a change, it’s snowing)
at noon, it’s still dark (and for a change, it’s snowing)
at 4 P.M. it’s dark again (and for change, it’s snowing!)
Celeste, the Mediterranean, is practically depressed by this weather; fortunately, he has been able to keep the sun shining in his heart and is able to let it shine all around him and especially to us the members of this community.
Sixth impression: I noticed quickly that the people around rarely speak about politics. The notion of the democracy currently in power has chilled more than one person.
After the Pussy Riots incident and the repression of the large demonstrations last spring, a wall of silence seems to have fallen on the population. Maybe that’s just the surface of things. Let’s hope so.
And to end of a high and happy note, friends of the parish brought Celeste and me, already the first Sunday I was there, to the warm Russian baths, a kind of sauna that is extremely overheated at the exit of which one jumps nude into an icy pool screaming and groaning like polar bears before flagellated oneself with bouquets of birch branches like some penitents of the Middle Ages!
One’s well-being is thus taken care--- massages to the limit and good humor on every floor! A warning to new visitors coming to see us in Moscow.