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Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Great Russian Adventure - Intro

Psalm 37 v 4: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

The Great Russian Adventure

My ancestors are Scottish, German and English. I don’t believe there is a drop of Russian blood in my body. But since adolescence I have been fascinated with Russia. On my best friend’s sixteenth birthday, her dad took us to the premiere of Dr Zhivago in Hollywood. (We were so innocent; we didn’t even understand the concept of an affair and had to have an explanation during the intermission – poor Mr Eipper.)

So was it the dramatic opening of the wee boy gathered with others round his mother’s grave in the depths of a Russian winter? Was it the frightening image of Zhivago trekking through Siberia, his facial hair frozen and his lips frostbitten? Was it the scenes of revolution and hardship? The beauty of Lara or the exotic attraction of Omar Sharif? 

Or was it my high school years in orchestra, playing Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet? University years studying Dostoevsky and Tolstoy? Taking political science classes in Soviet foreign policy? 

Voraciously reading everything Solzhenitsyn wrote and championing him when he was arrested and then deported? They were the years of the Vietnam war and I wasn’t a Communist sympathiser in any way (though I opposed the war), and still am not. The horrors of the Stalin years and the deprivations and systematic dismantling of centuries of sincere faith are desecrations of the human spirit. 

But still, Russia – the vast steppes, the ‘trans-Siberian railway’, the fairytale onion domes and the red walls of the Kremlin – have always stirred my soul. Beautiful. Haunting.

So meeting Ivan and Ksenia was like a gift from God. Unexpected. Not even on my radar. For that meeting to grow into a deep and sincere friendship has been amazing, not least because of the different generations to which we belong. For them to suggest a plan that we visit Russia with them felt so right, so natural, such a blessing, and we immediately set to learning the Cyrillic alphabet and desperately trying to remember a few words.

And so began the Great Russian Adventure, one of the wonders of my life, one of the many gifts God has dropped into my lap. God – our loving heavenly Father – who doesn’t always answer my prayers the way I want but then lavishes some unexpected pleasure on me like this – how I love him. 

Perhaps many would think this was just a circumstantial situation, but I see God’s fingerprints all over it. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Amen.

Over the next weeks I will try to share some of the experiences, some of the thoughts and feelings from September in Moscow, Tver and St Petersburg, enjoying ‘Indian summer’ weather, fabulous culture and amazing cuisine. 

Gratitude to God. Gratitude to Ivan and Ksenia.

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