Thirty more people joined the Old Ritualist community in the Primorsky Krai in the Russian Far East. Four more families of the Murychyov clan, 9 adults and 21 children, returned to their historic Motherland from Bolivia…
Now, they’ve settled in the Ussuri Raion, close to their older brother Ulyan Murychyov, who came from Bolivia six months ago with his family. This large extended family had long dreamed of returning to the Motherland. The RF state programme to assist the voluntary resettlement of compatriots living abroad helped to make this long-cherished dream come true.
The Old Ritualists originated in the 17th century when some believers didn’t accept the reforms made in the Church. Fleeing persecution, many fled to outlying areas in Russia, Siberia, and the Far East, where they settled in communities and engaged in agriculture, creating a vibrant way of life. However, the advent of atheistic Soviet rule in 1917 destroyed the Old Ritualists’ way of life. They were forced to flee abroad to escape persecution. Most of them found their way to Latin America, where vacant land was available.
Ivan Murychyov’s grandfather fled from the Primorsky Krai in 1933, but he asked his children to return to the Motherland if the government changed, if it wouldn’t attack their faith. Ivan Murychyov said, “Today, we’ve fulfilled our grandpa’s and grandma’s request. When I was still a little tyke, as soon as I learned how to read, Russia tugged at my heart. Up until my very last day in Bolivia, all that I wanted to do was to go back to Russia. When I heard that there was an opportunity to go to Russia, and they told us that we could maintain our way of life there, we immediately decided to leave. Even now, I can’t believe that we’re here. I want to thank everyone who helped us”.
Terenty Murychyov added, “It’s a great joy to be back home, where your ancestors lived, and where everybody speaks the same language as you do. Our folks left Russia at a very difficult time, when they were forcing everybody to go into the collective farms. They couldn’t join the kolkhoz; our faith wouldn’t allow it. So, they picked up what they could and fled abroad. Today, we’ve come back here because life’s become very hard in Bolivia. Sickness is common, and the harvests have been bad for years. However, here in Russia, you can sow and reap good harvests, so, we decided that we wanted to go back and start a new life here. My brother Ulyan said that we could live in any one of four raions, but we’re going to take our time and choose a place that’s just right for farming”.
The Murychyov clan already dreams of a new village, and the houses that the brothers will build, they hope that the state will assist them in providing building materials. However, no matter what, a church is going to be in the centre of the village. Terenty said, “We already have icons and books, and we can find those left by our grandfathers, when they fled from Russia. Before they left Russia, they stored the books away in a cave for safekeeping. Only my granddad knew how and where they hid them, along with some of the old folks who were alive then. There were two carts-load worth. None of us knows exactly where they are. They fled abroad with their kids, they couldn’t take their books, so, they left them in a cave”.
The path home from Bolivia was not only long, a little less than a week, 24 hours by train to São Paulo, then, by plane to Rome, from Rome to Moscow, and, lastly from Moscow to Vladivostok, but it was difficult. 18-year-old Dionisy said, “Many tried to discourage us from making the trip. They said Russia’s bad, life is hard, told us that all sorts of temptations would buffet us, but we didn’t believe them. I want to learn; in Bolivia, there aren’t any schools, but here, they have them”.
16-year-old Katia is going to learn, too. “I was born in Brazil, we lived there for several years, I went to school, and, then, we went to live in Bolivia, my education ended, I very much regret it, but I hope that I can catch up in Russia. We only attended school for two years in Brazil, then, that finished; in Bolivia, we had no school. We can learn in Russia, there’s no place without a school. Me… I’d like to work at a regular job. I want to draw, learn how to draw. I think I have the chance to do it. My uncle says that everything will be OK; it’s free, we’ll get on, and we’ll fit in. We won’t have to deal with other people’s ways, as we had to in Latin America”.
The Old Ritualists are one of the few groups in the world today that maintains its old traditions and outlook. All the women wear home-sewn dresses, and the men wear home-made tunics. They only buy their trousers, shoes, and underwear on the market. Girls marry at 14; boys marry at 19, when they can support a family. 29-year-old Alexandra has eight children; she’s pleased that they’ll grow up in Russia. She said, “I’m busy with the kids, my husband does all the outside work. A housewife is always home, she cooks, sews, and keeps house. Everything I know, my mum taught me. When I’m alone, I make things and embroider. I grew up in Brazil, then, we moved to Bolivia. We knew Russia from our books, we read fairy tales, we learned about it in our primers. That’s what we had of Russia. We always thought that we’d return. God helped us to do that, thanks to all of you. The going was long, so was our road. If we’d lived closer to home, we’d have come back long ago. If we hadn’t gotten state assistance, we wouldn’t have been able to come back “.
Today, many of the Murychyov clan is still in Bolivia. “Some aren’t thinking about leaving, others are waiting for us to get done building, then, they’ll come when it’s all ready”, Aleksandra joked. Yet, according to the Russian Embassy in Bolivia, about a thousand people have already filed papers for their return. However, the main obstacle is lack of money and documents. Most of the older generation of Old Ritualists in Latin America lacked proper ID documents. The Murychyov family is facing this problem right now. A mother of a large family is unable to leave Bolivia because she lacks a passport.
25 July 2011
Voice of Russia World Service