Three Days in Belarus

In April, 2015 St Petersburg delegation headed by Viacheslav Zarenkov went to Belarus for a three-day visit.
The delegation included representatives of Etalon Group and the Creative World Foundation, writer Nicolay Konyaev and archpriest of the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Life-Giving Spring fr. Eugene.

The national airport Minsk met the visitors from the Northern Capital with rain. But rain for citizens of St Petersburg is a habitual event rather than a trouble that is why having left baggage in the hotel the group immediately went for a tour around the city.

The capital of the Republic of Belarus – hero-city Minsk is one the most ancient cities in Europe. Alliance of the centuries-long history and culture with modern times gives the city its unique style and creates a special rhythm and mood.

Over its rich and complicated history Minsk has absorbed the best features of the Belarusians: peacefulness, kind-heartedness, agreeableness and hospitality.

The area of historical housing development: Freedom Square and streets adjoining it, Alexander Square in the center of the city laid as far back as in the mid-19th century and, certainly, one of the most picturesque sites of Minsk – the embankment of the Svislach River made an unforgettable impression on the Petersburgers.

Minsk sustained great damage during the Second World War: only several buildings survived in Praspekt Nezalezhnasci, the main fifteen-kilometer street of the city. The “face” of the city was built anew according to the unitary project which was developed with participation of the lead architects from Leningrad. It is not a mere coincidence that the main road of the Belarusian capital with its solemn strictness resembles their native city to the Petersburgers.

In the year of the 70th Anniversary of the Great Victory a visit to the Victory monument located in the square bearing the same name became especially important for the Russians. The monument is erected in commemoration of the soldiers defending Belarus against fascist invaders. A magnificent forty-meter structure is crowned with the Victory’s order and the eternal flame is burning at its bottom.

The Petersburgers were approaching the Victory monument with their hearts trembling. This year on the eve of the Victory Anniversary celebration in St Petersburg a monument to a small “road of life” which saved many lives in the days of siege will be opened in Lisy Nos. It is a whole page in history which is not commonly known yet.

At night gusts from St Petersburg visited the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater.

Coincidentally the author of these notes just one day before the events described had luck to visit the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow for the first life in her life. The main theater of Russia, one of the best in the world… To tell the truth in this situation I was a little afraid to go to a ballet in Minsk as so little time passed, emotions had not settled down yet… Would I be able to take in right spirit?.. But my worry turned hollow. Three parts were in one breath! The Minsk Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater showed the best works of musical art in perfect performance on its stage.

The next day the group went to Tolochin.

Tolochin is a small town in the Vitebsk Region of Belarus, and administrative center of Tolochinsky District with the population of about ten thousand people.

But this town is special. The Holy Protection Nunnery is located here. And it was the destination of our trip.

The Church was established in 1604. Tolochin Holy Protection Church with unique two-tower church refers to architectural monuments of Vilenskoye Baroque.

In November, 1812 Napoleon Bonaparte stayed for a night in the nunnery’s building. In one of its room he held a night meeting and took a decision to destroy records of his army.

The Frenchmen burnt Tolochin to ashes but for the nunnery. It was robbed and church’s relics were carried away to an undisclosed location. Their destiny is still unknown. Only an inventory of the stolen articles dated back to 1813 has preserved.

There is a legend that Napoleon who was retreating could not carry all treasure and hid it in the ancient underpasses of the nunnery where it still lie.

After such devastation the nunnery has not managed to restore its former splendor. In recent years the church, the sister’s building and the adjoining territory is in state of failure with a threat of destruction.

Thanks to the aid of St Petersburg philanthropist Vyacheslav Zarenkov major reconstruction and restoration works have been performed in the Holy Protection Nunnery. Golden domes of the church as the symbol of triumph of Orthodoxy with their shine call believers from the whole district to the church.

Mother Superior, hegumeness Anthisa accorded a warm welcome to the pilgrims and told amazing stories. So once before the Easter one of the town residents were boiling eggs for salad and for a moment she doubted in her faith and immediately one of the eggs in the pot turned scarlet.

Russian writer, Nicolay Konyaev noted that there, in the church, he had a great feeling that the Belarusians and Russians are the united body, one nation. And by efforts of such supporters as mother Anthisa and Vyacheslav Zarenkov the unity of our Russian Orthodox Church is being restored.

The Petersburgers also visited the town of Drutsk remarkable by the fact that one thousand years ago one of the thirst Orthodox churches in Russia, the Church of Nativity of the Mother of God was built here. In 2015 the Church was transferred to the Holy Protection Church.

Having visited the Orshansky District, Vitebsk Region Viacheslav Zarenkov gave modern appliances as a present to his school in Zubrevichi village.

A journey to Belarus finished with a visit to the Museum of Ancient Folk Crafts and Technologies Dudutki located in the picturesque place near the Ptich’ River in forty kilometers from Minsk.