Voices from Russia

Monday, 16 July 2012

Patriarch Kirill Visited Katyń

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On Sunday, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the First Hierarch of the MP, consecrated a church at the Katyń Forest memorial complex, calling the Russian and Polish peoples to unity. He called the site, some 20 kilometres (@12 miles) from Smolensk, a place of common grief and shared sacrifices. The modest church, a snow-white building with an impressive cupola, can accommodate about 500 people. However, the 15 July consecration saw it completely filled with believers. Many people had to stand under the open sky for hours outside the church, despite a damp and dank steady drizzle.

In the 1930s and 40s, many Poles and Russians died in mass executions at Katyń, making it a place of remembrance for the Smolensk region. When he was still Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Patriarch Kirill raised the question of how we should memorialise the massive tragedy here, saying, “However, for many years, no one knew precisely what to erect here as a monument. When I put forth the idea to commemorate the thousands of innocents who died here, many proposals came forward. Preliminary sketches were prepared, and the Smolensk clergy made their choices amongst them. However, I didn’t approve any of them, as it seemed to me that none of these projects reflected the depth of this place’s tragedy. Finally, I decided that we should erect a simple Orthodox cross in memory of the Orthodox lying here. Then, we could think of building a memorial church to honour all of the victims of Katyń. It wasn’t easy to implement, as the authorities gave all sorts of excuses. Even after we laid the cornerstone for the memorial church, some people protested against building an Orthodox church at this place. We decided to build the church at another site nearby… and this decision turned out to be providential”.

The formal ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the future memorial church took place on 7 April 2010. Then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk attended. The head of the design atelier that drew up the plans for the memorial complex was architect Dmitri Pshenichnikov. Besides a church, the complex includes a belfry, a well with holy water, a conference hall, a dormitory for pilgrims, a refectory, and utility outbuildings.

Patriarch Kirill said, “It’s symbolic that the memorial church here is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ. This church is a sign of our belief in God’s victory over Satan, in the victory of Good over Evil. It’s a metaphor. After all, the Resurrection is the victory of Truth over Falsehood. Because we neither conceal nor distort the truth about what happened at Katyń… this Russian Golgotha… where both Russians and Poles lie in its graves, the truth is triumphant. Today, in this magnificent church, we celebrate the risen Passionbearer, in the hope of the universal resurrection. Katyń is a place of common mourning for both Russians and Poles, a place of common suffering, a place of deep emotions. Nothing unites people as much as common suffering. It’s now time for us to realise that Katyń is a terrible symbol of our common tragedy. However, after we realise that, we should act as brothers and sisters with a shared sorrow. I believe that this could be an opening for a new era in Russo-Polish relations”.

After consecrating the church and serving its first Divine Liturgy, Patriarch Kirill, together with a Polish delegation of politicians, military officers, and Orthodox hierarchs went out to the memorial complex. After a brief Litiya for the dead at the Alley of Memory, the demarcation between the Russian and the Polish parts of the memorial, His Holiness laid a wreath at the Orthodox cross in the Russian part of the cemetery, and another at the altar in its Polish part. When His Holiness approached the Polish graves, the famous Katyń bell rang three times. This bell is placed lower than ground level, which not only recalls those who lie here, but it also serves a warning to future generations.

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Russian and Polish Army soldiers stood together at Katyń at the formal opening of the memorial church on the site of mass executions during the time of repressions. Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias led the consecration service of the Memorial Church of the Resurrection of Christ. A military honour guard and members of Scouting organisations lined up outside the church. The church is at the entrance to the memorial complex, with the graves of about 10,000 Soviet citizens and more than 4,000 Polish officers, shot by the NKVD in Katyń Forest in the 1930s and 40s. Construction of the church began in 2010, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in attendance.

The icons of the Katyń Martyrs adorn the iconostas of the church, including Archbishop Serafim Ostroumov of Smolensk, shot here with other clergy in 1937. Fr Aleksei Andreyuk, a Polish military chaplain, said, “Every bit of earth in the Katyń Forest contains the blood of Russian and Polish martyrs. We’ve prayed together here since 1996. Since 2010, when a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczyński  to Smolensk crashed near here, we have an annual pilgrimage to this spot”. He pointed up that Archbishop Miron Chodakowski, the Polish Armed Forces Orthodox Field Bishop, was amongst the dead in that crash. Polish Army Colonel Jerzy Wiljuk and Polish Army Orthodox Field Bishop Jerzy Pańkowski of Siemiatycki led the Polish delegation. Amongst the attendees were two grandchildren of Polish Army Chaplain Szymon Fedorońko, who was shot at Katyń.

According to Patriarch Kirill, Katyń is only one of the Golgothas… Solovki and the Butovo Poligon in Moscow are others. He noted that, whilst he was still Metropolitan of Smolensk, he paid close attention to studies on the Katyń tragedy, and found out that more than 8,000 cases ended in shootings at Katyń. The Patriarch pointed up that, according to archival evidence, more than 16,000 Russians died there, amongst them, one of the last of the pre-war victims, was an outstanding hierarch, Archbishop Serafim Ostroumov of Smolensk and Dorogobuzh, saying, “He was a man with an amazing life, who, perhaps, would have been numbered amongst the saints even without a martyr’s death. Besides that, more than 4,000 Polish officers were shot here, including a remarkable man, the Orthodox archpriest Szymon Fedorońko, who was a Polish military chaplain”.

The snow-white church fits naturally into the memorial complex and the pine forest surrounding it. Orthodox St Tikhon Humanities University (PSTGU) in Moscow made the iconostas, following their electronic database of the Assembly of Russian New Martyrs and Confessors of the Twentieth Century. The memorial complex has both Russian and Polish sections. In the Polish portion, memorial crosses and a memorial stele are on the site of the mass graves. Annually, in April, Polish delegations come here. On the Russian side, there’s a 10-metre-high Orthodox cross in front of the graves of victims of political repression (the perimeter of each of the nine fences surrounding the graves is shaped irregularly, emphasising that the exact number of dead is unknown). An Alley of Memory lies between the Russian and Polish memorials.

15 July 2012

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/2012_07_15/81623630/

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Patriarch Kirill Began a Two-Day Trip to Smolensk

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Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias, the First Hierarch of the MP, arrived in Smolensk for a two-day pastoral visit, which is of significance for both Orthodox and Catholic believers . This isn’t his first visit to Smolensk, for His Holiness was the ruling bishop of the Diocese of Smolensk before he became Patriarch, and he still frequently visits this ancient Old Russian town. During his stay in Smolensk, Patriarch Kirill will serve Divine Liturgy in local churches and consecrate the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection of Christ at the memorial complex at the infamous Katyń Forest site.

Deacon Aleksandr Volkov, the head of the patriarchal press service, said in a VOR interview, “The consecration of this memorial church has a prominent place in the reconciliation between the fraternal Russian and Polish peoples. Not once, but many times, Patriarch Kirill emphasised the importance of building such a church at the memorial complex commemorating what he called ‘the Golgotha of Smolensk’. Construction started in 2010, and the church is now complete, ready for consecration. The Church will host joint prayers at this spot, for both the Russians and Poles buried in the Katyń Forest, so that it’ll serve as an earnest of the reconciliation of our two peoples, despite all of the historical and contemporary political differences between us. This reconciliation will only occur if we come to an awareness of the pain and bloodshed that happened here”.

The Katyń memorial complex is located in the Katyń Forest, some 20 kilometres from the Smolensk city-centre, on the site of tragic events in the 1930s and 40s that engulfed  both Soviet and Polish citizens. Today, the Katyń Forest has become a symbol of martyrdom, a mute witness to tragedy, and a sign of the monstrous power of totalitarianism. Today, the memorial complex holds about 150 mass graves, holding about 14,000 Soviet and Soviet victims of the repression. However, no one really knows the exact number of victims. For a long time, the “Katyń Affair” was a sticking point in diplomatic relations between Russia and Poland. In 2010, the RF Gosduma adopted an official statement, “About the Katyń Tragedy and its Victims”, which recognised this mass execution of Polish citizens in the time of the Stalinist repression.

Poles are watching Patriarch Kirill’s current trip to Smolensk with great interest, as it’s coming ahead of an historical event for both countries. For the first time in Polish history, a First Hierarch of the MP will visit this mostly-Catholic country, where His Holiness will sign a joint communiqué urging Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic believers to reconcile. It’s taken three years to come up with a mutually-acceptable text, but its exact content remains unknown. We only know that the statement aims to bring together two different peoples, with different religious faiths, on the basis of the Gospel and common Christian values.

Bishop Jerzy Pańkowski of Siemiatycki, an official representative of the Polish Orthodox Church and Orthodox Field Bishop of the Polish Armed Forces, told our VOR correspondent, “For me, as a religious man and a Christian, it’s impossible to imagine that the gloomy shadows of the past can forever separate our two peoples. Of course, there were difficult times in both Russia and Poland, and in the relations between our countries and peoples, we know that. However, I don’t think that we should allow the past to ruin the prospects of mutually-rewarding ties between Russians and Poles, for they can change our lives for the better. In that sense, I believe that Patriarch Kirill’s upcoming visit to Poland is extremely important. Even though it’s not yet happened, it’s generated a great deal of buzz in Poland. Personally, I’d like to think that this official visit of the First Hierarch of the MP to Poland would have a most beneficial impact on Russo-Polish relations”.

Patriarch Kirill will visit Poland from 16 to 19 August.

14 July 2012

Milena Faustova

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/2012_07_14/81495324/

Editor’s Note:

There are major problems with the translation posted on the English-language side of VOR. For instance, it incorrectly identifies Bishop Jerzy as a Catholic cleric. In another, it talks about “Stalin’s secret police”, when such a term isn’t used or implied in the Russian text. I’ve taken the above directly from the Russian-language text, and I follow it faithfully. Shame on VOR… they’re usually much better than that.

Also note that there will be “joint prayers”, but not a shared service. If it were the latter, one would speak of a Molieben in Russian, and that usage wasn’t employed. It spoke of “prayers”, with no mention of a “service” of any sort. After the considerable upset that the Blunder caused with his ecumaniacal (not a typo) doings at the Dublin Eucharistic Congress, the fact that HH is allowing this is a major concession.

BMD

Monday, 4 June 2012

People’s Artist of the RSFSR Eduard Khil, “Mr Trololo”, Dies at 77

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People’s Artist of the RSFSR Eduard Khil died of a stroke at the age of 77. It’s hard to believe that he’s gone. Everyone knew of Khil’s humour and of the optimism that permeated his songs; he remained lively and energetic to the end. Khil possessed a composed but powerful lyric baritone voice, fantastic diction, and great artistry. His life wasn’t easy. At age seven, he was evacuated from Smolensk an hour before the Germans arrived. The spectre of death hung over his head… sinister planes with black crosses bombed a train carrying wounded people, to which the car with the children was attached at the last moment. Eduard remembered for the rest of his life the metallic glint of the low-flying aircraft and the blood of the newly-killed soldiers and children who were buried almost every day. Then, he went to an orphanage in distant Buryatia because his mother had lost him in the chaos of the VOV (by that time she was divorced from her husband). Eduard made two failed attempts to get to the front lines. He suffered from malnutrition. Later, he recalled that he often dreamed about bread at night. Eduard survived. He took part in concerts for the wounded. Towards the end of the war, his mother found him and took back home to devastated Smolensk. It’s no accident that Khil had so many military songs in his repertoire. He used to say, “Those who survived the war are not afraid of anything”.

Having witnessed so many horrors as a child, Khil looked at the bright side for his whole life. He not only survived, he became a professional singer after graduating from the Leningrad Conservatory in 1960. His first performance was in 1949, when he was a student at a vocational printing school. As he recalled later on, he was paid in crackers. Where did this son of a mechanic and an accountant get his talent? He probably inherited it from his grandfather Vasili. He was a church choir director before the Revolution, but he was purged by the Soviets. Why didn’t Khil become an opera singer? After all, he played the role of Figaro in Mozart‘s The Marriage of Figaro; he performed in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville; he sang Janusz from Moniuszko’s Galka and the leading parts in Yevgeni Onegin and The Queen of Spades. Khil probably wanted to transcend the classical genre. He launched his career as a pop singer in 1962 and he soon became one of the country’s best performers. However, he didn’t forget about other musical genres, either. As the host of By the Fireplace on Leningrad television, he described the history of classic Russian lyrical songs and sang them himself.

Audiences in many countries loved Khil, and not just those in the Eastern bloc. Apart from his vocal talents, Khil had the important skill of always being “in synch” with his era. In the 1990s, when many Soviet performers lost their jobs, Khil and the youth band Prepinaki presented a project, “Khil and Sons”, offering updated version of popular Soviet songs. In 2010, Khil became popular all over the world as young American internet users fell in love with a video of him singing Arkady Ostrovsky’s 1966 song, I’m Very Happy ‘cause I’m Finally Goin’ Home. Khil became known as “Mr Trololo” after the sound he repeats throughout the wordless vocalise. He recalled his moment of international fame by saying, “I was sitting at home, peeling potatoes. My grandson rushed in and said, ‘What are you doing, Gran’pa? They’re showing you on the Internet!’ I don’t even know how many people saw me, but I was immediately showered with invitations from all over the world”.

Several generations were raised on Khil’s songs. As one of his fans wrote, “He was a great singer with a unique voice. He sang as if he were reading novels out loud, and it was impossible to be unmoved by his singing”. Khil once remarked, “Only fools believe that pop singing’s a simple genre. Many still consider show business easy, but I’ll tell you that all these things are very difficult”.

4 June 2012

Sergei Varshavchik

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20120604/173847612.html

4 June 2012. VOR Presents… Soviet Pop Legend Eduard Khil died in St Petersburg

In the early hours of 4 June, in St Petersburg, People’s Artist of the RSFSR Eduard Khil died in the 78th year of his life. The legendary singer was in hospital at the Polenov Russian Neurosurgical Institute in St Petersburg, where his doctors transferred him from the Mariinskoe Hospital after he suffered a stroke. He remained in extremely serious condition the whole time of his hospitalisation.

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Khil was born in Smolensk, on 4 September 1934; he began his musical career in 1960 after graduating from the Leningrad Conservatory.

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Khil began his pop music career in 1962; in 1974, when he was 40, he became a People’s Artist of the RSFSR.

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Khil performed many popular songs, including С чего начинается Родина? (Where does the Motherland Begin?), Бери шинель, пошли домой (Take the Overcoat and Go Home), На безымянной высоте (On a Nameless Height), Не плачь, девчонка (Don’t Cry, Girlie), Как хорошо быть генералом (How Good It Is to Be a General), У леса на опушке (At the Edge of the Forest), and А люди уходят в море (And People Go To Sea).

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Until recently, Khil toured extensively in Russia and the CIS countries with his concert programme, “Eduard Khil and Sons”. In the image above, we see Khil with actress and singer Elina Bystritskaya at the 16th annual awards ceremony of the Golden Gramophone Music Award at the State Kremlin Palace in 2011.

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In recent years, Khil became known worldwide thanks to a song he first performed in 1976, Я очень рад, ведь я наконец возвращаюсь домой (I’m Very Happy ‘cause I’m Finally Goin’ Home). It’s a vocalise without a single word, consisting entirely of wordless vocalisation. However, English-language listeners heard it as “Tro-Lo-Lo”, so, in the West, Khil became known as “Mr Trololo”.

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4 June 2012

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/photoalbum/76947264/76947275/

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