Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg 2021

PHOTO: members of the Double-Headed Eagle Society carry an icon of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

On the night of 16/17 July, a Divine Liturgy in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, took place on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. The Divine Liturgy and Cross Procession are the highlights of the annual Tsar’s Days held in the Ural capital.

Traditionally, several tens of thousands of people participate in the Tsar’s Cross Procession – 10 thousand in 2020 [due to COVID], 60 thousand in 2019 and 100 thousand in 2018 [100th anniversary]. Despite the pandemic, an estimated 3 thousand Orthodox Christians and monarchists took part in this year’s Divine Liturgy.

PHOTO: on the night of 16th July 2021, an estimated 3 thousand pilgrims attended the Divine Liturgy at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

In addition, the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs was honoured with Divine Liturgies held in Orthodox churches across Russia and around the world. In addition, many people lit candles in front of icons, while offering prayers in the privacy of their homes around the globe. The author of this article was one of them.

The Divine Liturgy was led by eight bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky, Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan Vikentiy, Metropolitan of Chelyabinsk and Miassky Alexy, Bishop of Orsk and Gaysky Irenaeus, Bishop of Isilkul and Russian-Polyansky, Bishop Theodosius of Nizhny Novgorod and Nizhny-Polyan Kamyshlovsky Methodius, Bishop of Zlatoust and Satka Vincent.

PHOTO: Orthodox Christians gather on the square in front of the Church on the Blood to honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs

Metropolitan Eugene addressed the faithful, who had assembled on the square in front of the church:

“The sacred, solemn, tragic, joyful night has come, which we call the Tsar’s night within the Tsar’s Days. A night that combines in itself the tragedy of Good Friday, the Gethsemane struggle that the Holy Royal Martyrs experienced at this place. And on the same night, the great joy of the Resurrection of Christ and the glory into which the Holy Royal Martyrs entered from this place is revealed. All this is experienced very closely by every person, and we have the opportunity to draw here both the hope of the resurrection and our strength to endure these Gethsemane temptations.

“At this time 103 years ago, the August Family, having prayed to God, saying: “In Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,” just like we do when to go to sleep. And after a few minutes, footsteps sounded along the corridors, they began to be raised, woken up and taken to the basement. We know today what glory it ended with. And I would like to wish everyone to be inspired by their faith, humility and patience,” – said Metropolitan Eugene.

The night service was broadcast live by the Soyuz Orthodox TV channel to 87 countries around the world. You can watch the Divine Liturgy in its entirety, by clicking on the VIDEO below, duration 2 hours and 41 minutes:

Vladyka conveyed to the participants in the Divine Liturgy the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to be attentive to each other and to observe all the necessary health and safety measures during the pandemic. He called on everyone to pray for the sick and also for their doctors. Metropolitan Eugene also emphasized, that when the Cross Procession to Ganina Yama begins, “I will put on a mask and, which I hope, will set a good example so that we all show humility – this is our discipline, this is our strength.”

Following the Divine Liturgy, a Cross Procession took place from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. Pilgrims follow the route in which the bodies of the Imperial Family were transported to Ganina Yama – a distance of 26 km (16 miles), taking about four to five hours to walk on foot.

PHOTO: in the early morning hours of 17th July 2021, an estimated 2 thousand pilgrims participated in a Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

Due to the fact that the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region cancelled this years Cross Procession (due to the COVID situation), the head of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, Metropolitan Eugene of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky defied the order, and led 2 thousand believers on today’s Cross Procession to Ganina Yama. This year, however, the roads were not closed to traffic, forcing the pilgrims to walk on narrow sidewalks and the shoulder of the highway to safely make the journey.

PHOTO: pilgrims arrive on foot at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, after walking a distance of 26 km (16 miles) from the Church on the Blood, a journey taking about four to five hours

At approximately 6:30 am, another Divine Liturgy was performed at Mine No. 7, where the bodies of members of the Imperial Family and their loyal servants were thrown into the mineshaft by their killers. More than 80 clergymen prayed together with the arch-pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church.

PHOTO: Divine Liturgy was led by Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye at the Cross, erected over Mine No. 4, where the bodies of the Holy Royal Martyrs were thrown by their killers into an abandoned mine

The Divine Liturgy was led by Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan Vikenty, Bishop of Isilkul and Russian-Polyansky Theodosius, Bishop of Nizhny Tagil and Nevyansk Theodosius.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us! 🙏
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас! 🙏

© Paul Gilbert. 17 July 2021

Pilgrimage Center at Ganina Yama

PHOTO: Pilgrimage Center at Ganina Yama

If you are planning a visit to Ekaterinburg, you may want to consider avoiding the hustle and bustle of the city, and spend a few days at the Diocesan Pilgrimage Center at Ganina Yama, which is located in a lush pine forest 25 km from Ekaterinburg.

Opened in November 2013, near the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, the Pilgrimage Center provides accommodation for 180 people and meals in the refectory [dining hall] for 80 people with a varied menu. It is an ideal place to stay for pilgrims who wish to visit the places associated with the last days of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. In addition, the center provides a conference hall for 200 people – perhaps, an ideal venue for a future Nicholas II Conference? – among other amenities.

PHOTO: accommodation for 180 people in comfortable and affordable rooms

PHOTO: the refectory seats 80 people with a varied menu and three meals a day

Ekaterinburg resident Lydia Rostova, reflects on her stay at the pilgrimage center: “the rooms were both comfortable and affordable – starting at 500 rubles [$7 USD] per night. Three meals a day are organized in the center – breakfast 80 rubles [$1 USD], lunch 150 rubles [$2 USD], dinner 100 rubles [$1.40 USD]. At first I thought that I would not have to have supper, because the refectory is open until 20:00, and the evening service at the monastery ends later. But the question was easily resolved: if necessary, supper is left and warmed up. The food is tasty and varied.”

PHOTO: the center provides a conference hall seating 200 people

It is convenient place to stay for its proximity to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs or Porosenkov Log, to attend divine services, and to honour the memory of the Imperial Family. In addition, pilgrims can arrange visits to Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk, or a pilgrimage to the Sredneuralsky Women’s Monastery in honour of the icon of the Mother of God, which is situated 7 km away from the center. You can also book a transfer to/from Koltsovo Airport for 700 rubles [$10 USD].

The Diocesan Pilgrimage Center at Ganina Yama prides itself in the tradition of Abrahamic hospitality to all pilgrims and visitors. Click HERE to visit their web site [Russian only].

© Paul Gilbert. 3 June 2021

Unique retro style postcards of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

The 23rd of September 2020, marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, which is situated 26 km (16 miles) from Ekaterinburg.

As part of the events marking the anniversary, the brethren of the monastery and the staff of the Museum and Exhibition Center – located in the the Church of the Reigning Mother of God – have prepared a unique gift for all pilgrims who visit the monastery with an excursion – a set of unique postcards with retro style photographs of the monastery taken with a 19th century camera.

In order to receive a set of the postcards, visitors need to obtain a special postcard-flyer at the Tsarsky Cultural and Educational Center – located in the Patriarchal Compound of the Church on the Blood – which must be presented to the guide at the monastery.

At the end of the tour, each visitor receives a set of these unique postcards with retro style photographs of the monastery. The photographs were taken by professional photographer, Candidate of Historical Sciences Vasily Zapariy, who used an old camera with glass plates of the late 19th – early 20th centuries, at the special request of the  Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

The postcards were issued in a limited edition, and show how the churches, landscapes and brethren of the monastery would look through the lens of old photographic equipment.

The exhibition also features an interesting collection of old cameras. In order for visitors to gain a better understanding of the history of pre-revolutionary photography in Russia, using the example of the August amateur photographers – the family of Emperor Nicholas II.

The postcard promotion is valid until 28th February. The number of gifts is limited to 400 sets.

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CLICK on the IMAGE above to watch the VIDEO – duration 1 minute, 48 seconds

The excursion includes the photo-exhibition “August Photo Amateurs”, which opened on 19th September 2020, in the Museum and Exhibition Center – located in the the Church of the Reigning Mother of God – of the Monastery of the Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama

The exhibition is one of numerous events marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the monastery. This particular exhibition presents the history of the development of the Imperial family’s passion for photography.

The exhibit presents a unique selection of photographs of Nicholas II and his family, testifying their deep interest and technical capabilities in the field of photography. The exhibition also features those taken by professional court photographers. Admission is FREE.

© Paul Gilbert. 22 January 2021

Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama marks 20th anniversary

PHOTO: A wooden causeway has been built around the edge of the mine shaft, a tall cross marks the edge of the mine shaft where the remains of Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers were their killers first discarded after their brutal murder.

On Wednesday, 23rd September, a solemn Divine Liturgy was held at Ganina Yama on the occasion marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

With the financial assistance from the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, the Russian Orthodox Church constructed the Monastery at the site in 2001. Seven chapels were later constructed at the site, one for each member of the Imperial family. Each chapel is dedicated to a particular saint or relic.

PHOTO: The Four Brothers mine (collapsed) is now visible as a depression in the ground. In July of each year, the former mine pit is covered with fragrant lily plants for the ceremony marking the regicide.

A tall cross marks the edge of the mine shaft – visible as a depression in the ground – where the remains of Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers were first discarded after their brutal murder in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

The horrific crime that took place here at the Four Brothers mine near the village of Koptyaki – 15 km north from Ekaterinburg – was carried out in the early morning hours of 17th July 1918, when the men who took part in the regicide, threw the bodies of the Imperial family and their four retainers into the mine.

The murderers returned the following night, retrieved the remains, and reburied them in two separate graves at Porosenkov Log, situated about 3.8 km away.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас!

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In honour of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, a video history of the monastery has been prepared. It consists of three parts and describes a chronology of events from the life of the monastery at Ganina Yama, between 1990 to 2020.

Part I: the period from 1990 to 2000 (Duration: 2 minutes, 25 seconds)

Part II: the period from 2000 to 2003 (Duration: 3 minutes)

Part III: the period from 2004 to 2020 (Duration: 4 minutes, 20 seconds)

© Paul Gilbert. 13 November 2020

10,000 march in Royal Martyrs procession in Ekaterinburg

The Ekaterinburg Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church hosted its annual Divine Liturgy and Cross Procession in honour of the Holy Royal Martyrs last night from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers in Ganina Yama.

Some 10,000 Orthodox faithful joined in the Cross Procession this year, from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, built on the site where the remains of Nicholas II, his family and four retainers were first callously discarded, before they were later reburied at Porosenkov Log some 1.3 km away.

The size of the procession was significantly reduced this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The local authorities had urged the faithful not to participate. In 2018, 100,000 participated in the Divine Liturgy and Cross Procession on the 100th anniversary of the Holy Royal Martyrs, and 60,000 in 2019.

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The evening began with the Divine Liturgy celebrated on the square in front of the Church on the Blood by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky , His Grace Bishop Methody of Kamensk, His Grace Bishop Evgeny of Nizhny Tagil, His Grace Bishop Alexei of Serov, and His Grace Bishop Leonid of Argentina and South America.

After the Divine Liturgy, the faithful began a 21-km Cross Procession, along the same route used to transport the murderers used to transport the bodies of the murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918.

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The procession was accompanied throughout by mobile groups from the Orthodox Mercy service, Tsar’s Days volunteers, representatives from the Nika charitable foundation, and Cossacks of the Orenburg Military Cossack Society, all of whom provided various means of assistance to the pilgrims.

Around 6:00 AM, the procession headed by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky and the hierarchs and clergy reached the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, where the monks greeted the pilgrims with the ringing of the monastery bells.

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Upon arrival, a moleben was served to the Holy Royal Martyrs and Metropolitan Kirill addressed the faithful:

“We pray and believe that the Lord, through the prayers of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Confessors of our Church, still preserves our land and covers it with His Heavenly covering. We hope that with God’s help we will lead an Orthodox Christian way of life and will take an example from righteous people, such as the Holy Royal Family and their faithful retainers, and all those who laid down their lives for our homeland and our Holy Church. Through their prayers, the Lord will forgive and have mercy on all of us by the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Holy Royal Martyrs, and all the saints who have pleased God from time immemorial.”

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The Tsar’s Days celebrations continue tonight in Alapaevsk where the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodoron, the Nun Barbara, and Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, the Princes of the Imperial Blood Ioann (John) Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich, and Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, and Grand Duke Sergei’s secretary Fyodor Remez were martyred on July 18, 1918.

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Святой Царь Мученик Николай, Моли Бога о Нас!
Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas II, Pray to God for Us!

© Paul Gilbert. 17 July 2020

Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg 2020

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A Divine Liturgy is held on the night of 16/17 July at the Church on the Blood

Despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Tsar’s Days events will go ahead as planned in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. Russia has been hard hit by the coronavirus, reported more than 371,000 cases to date.

A press release from the Ekaterinburg City Hall has confirmed that in 2020, Tsar’s Days will be held from 12 to 21 July. Tsar’s Days is the annual festival of Orthodox culture in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk Region, marking the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Ipatiev House on 17th July 1918. The festival includes divine services, religious processions, exhibitions, concerts and other events.

The main event, for which thousands of Orthodox pilgrims come to Ekaterinburg, is the solemn liturgy, which takes place on the night of the murder of the Holy Royal Martyrs – 16/17 July, in the Church on the Blood. At the end of the Liturgy, tens of thousands of pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama.

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Pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg
to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama

In addition, several exhibitions will be held in Ekaterinburg, including From Repentance to the Resurrection of Russia, which will be held from 12-19 July. Representatives of the largest Orthodox churches from across Russia, Ukraine, Greece and other countries will take part.

The first Tsar’s Days was held in Ekaterinburg in 2001. In 2018, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the regicide in the Ural capital, attracted more than 100,000 Orthodox pilgrims, monarchists, among others from across Russia and around the world.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 May 2020

New Exhibits Dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs Open in Ganina Yama

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New permanent outdoor exhibit on the grounds of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs

A photo exhibition “We” presents the work of Ekaterinburg photographer Yaroslav Kulakov, opened this week in the Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama. The exhibit features photos of the participants of the Tsar’s Days and the Cross Procession over a 20-year period from 1998 to 2018.

“The Lord has not created anything more beautiful than a spiritual and joyful human face,” said Yaroslav Kulakov. Many of his photographs have become historical. The photographs include the first designer of the monastery, Tatiana Alekseevna Petkevich, icon painter Tatiana Fedorovna Vodicheva, the confessor of the monasteryAbel (Odintsev) among many others.

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New permanent outdoor exhibit on the grounds of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs

A second exhibit, a permanent outdoor exhibition dedicated to the Imperial Family and their faithful companions who perished with them on the night of 16/17 July 1918, also opened on the grounds of the monastery.

The exhibition which is located near the monument to Emperor Nicholas II, includes 12 stands featuring a photo and biography of members of the Imperial family and their faithful retainers.

This brief, yet information excursion into Russian history will help those who are just starting to get acquainted with the history of the Holy Royal Family.

The photo exhibition “We” will run until 13th September 2019, in the Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama, from 10:30 to 16:30 daily, except Monday.

© Ekaterinburg Diocese / Paul Gilbert. 26 July 2019

Exhibition dedicated to Nicholas Sokolov opens in the Urals

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On 8th June 2019, the Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye opened the exhibition Penza – Paris. The Way of the Tsar’s Investigator N.A. Sokolov, in the Museum and Exhibition Center in Ganina Yama.

The exhibition, is timed to the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the work of the investigator Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924)  in Ekaterinburg and at the Four Brothers mine in 1919.

Metropolitan Kirill reminded guests that the name of N.A. Sokolov is inextricably linked with the Imperial family, since Sokolov was a monarchist, he loved Russia and would not accept the changes brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. 

“Nikolai Alekseevich crossed the front line to reach the troops commanded by General Vasilyevich Kolchak (1874-1920), who was recognised as the “Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Sea Forces” by the other leaders of the White movement from 1918 to 1920. Sokolov became one of the closest assistants to the Supreme Commander, who entrusted him with the investigation into the case of the regicide. This year also marks 95 years since the death of investigator Sokolov, a man who made an enormous contribution in gathering evidence about the last days of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg,” noted Kirill.

The ruling bishop said that it was NA Sokolov who was the first to follow the path of the cross from the Ipatiev House to Ganina Yama, and it was he who conducted most of the research at the site of the murder and burial of the Holy Royal Passion-bearers.

“We value his sincere work no less than the work of those who remained faithful to the Tsar, his family and and their faithful retainers – Dr. Botkin, cook Kharitonov, maid Demidova and the tsar’s valet Troupe, and all those who wanted to remain with them, but who were separated from the Imperial Family, at Tsarskoye Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg,” he added.

In conclusion, Metropolitan Kirill thanked the staff of the museum who preserve the memory of the Imperial family.

Visitors to the exhibit can see unique archival materials that give an idea of ​​the difficult task of the investigator. Also presented are rare family photos of N. Sokolov, which are kept by his descendants in France and in Russia. Many of them are displayed for the first time.

The exhibition will be open to visitors until the end of 2019, admission is free.

Click HERE to read Memorial Plaque to Nikolai Sokolov Unveiled in Mokshan, published on Royal Russia News 27th December 2018;

and HERE to read Nikolai Sokolov: The man who revealed the story of the Romanov killings by Alla Astanina, published on 18 April 2015 on Russia Beyond the Headlines.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2019

An Atheist Among the Orthodox: Ural Correspondent Reflects on her Pilgrimage to Ganina Yama

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“Nonbelievers have no place in the procession of the cross” – Olga Tatarnikova

On the morning of 17th July 2016, 66.ru special correspondent Olga Tatarnikova took part in the procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. After she awoke the following morning, she described what she had to go through and why she was completely unprepared for this annual event.

After returning from my first religious procession, I collapsed on my bed and slept almost the entire day. Neither my body nor my head managed to recover from this strange night. It was only the next day, noting the calluses on my feet, that I was able to more soberly evaluate everything that had taken place and understand that nonbelievers have no place in the procession of the cross.

When the editorial board at 66.ru asked me to go along with the believers to Ganina Yama, I thought: “So what? It must be similar to the May Walk (a Russian physical culture event held in Ekaterinburg every 3rd Sunday of May), only the procession of the cross to Ganina Yama takes place in the early morning hours, among women in headscarves”. I could not even imagine that this would be the most difficult task in my entire career.

It all started at half past two on the morning of 17th July. At this time, a column of thousands of believers was gathering on the street below the Church on the Blood. The 20-kilometer journey, follows the route which almost a hundred years ago, the remains of members of the Imperial family were taken by their murderers to be disposed of in an abandoned mine. As the column began moving, I noticed heaps of rubbish, long lines for the toilets and crowds of people trampling down the lawn to join the procession. 

Most of the pilgrims are women, wearing color scarves and skirts, carrying packs and mats on their back, many with raincoats. On their chest – icons bearing the image of Holy Royal Martyrs. Many went on their way in rubber slippers and socks, which by the end of the procession were covered in dirt and mud.

Overtaking the column was not an easy feat. Despite the fact that there were many women, pensioners and children in the procession, they walked so fast that I had to run to catch up with them. It was amazing to see young children who were led by their mothers, and I even came across people in wheelchairs.

Photos courtesy of 66.ru

And finally, I am among the believers. They hardly spoke amongst themselves. The bell ringing, and prayers gave the impression that they were in a state of trance. They repeat:

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

Sometimes people took out their phones to take pictures of the crowd, themselves and the surrounding buildings. There are many visitors among the pilgrims, who at the same time take pictures of the city’s sights.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As soon as I got inside the column, I felt scared and ill. Never at night in Ekaterinburg have I experienced such stuffiness. You take a breath of air – and it does not fill the lungs. You just can’t breathe. Gradually, my head began to spin, my forehead became heavy, and a strange sensation appeared in my eyes, as if someone was pressing on them. No matter how hard I tried to force myself to walk among the Orthodox, my legs carried me closer to the safety of the sidewalk.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

The temperature was already 18 degrees Celsius. After the first few kilometers, we turned onto Verkh-Isetsky Boulevard, it became hot, the humidity oppressive.

On the side of the lawn are the Cossacks – making sure that no one walks on the grass. 

I stumble about wearing a long skirt, and disgruntled people rush at me from behind – the crowd does not stop.

  – Alyosha! – shouts one woman. She lost her son in the crowd. Nobody responds to her calls, which are drowned in the prayers of human voices around her. 

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

We pass the Karnaval shopping complex, and fear that I will soon faint. I feel sweat trickling down my back and take off my jacket.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

Photos courtesy of 66.ru

As we approach the bridge, something starts to happen. I am sure that I will lose consciousness, from all the stuffiness, chants and oppression . The asphalt seemed to buckle under my feet. I am not imagining this in my head. You take a step, and it feels as if the earth is going up and down – I panic, and jump over the fence, running through the mud onto solid ground. But even then the buckling did not stop – it was as if I had been riding a boat for several hours.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As we turn on Ulitsa Teknikalskaya, men run behind flower stalls and stand under the windows to relieve themselves. Women have nowhere to run, so they crouch under the trees, hiding behind flags bearing the image of the tsar. Someone went into the courtyard and upon, returning, said that the residents were swearing at the participants in the procession. Perhaps the organizers could remedy this problem by placing portable public toilets along the procession route.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

At the half way point the brain stops working. I carry on, trying not to step on my calluses, and listen to the conversations around me.

A bald man tells his neighbor that he had been sick with cancer. At first he lamented the injustices of his life, and then he accepted it. I decided to go to church, he added. And two weeks later, a doctor came to him with all the equipment, checked the man and said that he could find no trace of cancer. noting a miracle of God

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As we walk through the forest, every now and then people stop and shake the stones out of their shoes. On the side of the road stands a woman with a red cross on her head and with a spray gun in her hands:

  – “Who wants to be sprinkled with Holy water?”

Six in the morning. Feet continue to slowly, painfully stride forward. I hear the conversation behind. A boy of five holds his mother by the hand and complains that he is very tired. Next to him is a man who advises him to thank God for his trials:

  – Fatigue – it will pass. It will be hard for you – fold your hands like this and ask the saint for help. He sees every soul and immediately comes to the rescue. Only then do not forget to pray and say thanks to God for the difficulties he subjected you to. Work, pray and be patient.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

Photos courtesy of 66.ru

After an hour and a half we come to EKAD (Ekaterinburg Ring Road). The column blocks the road, and I can note the glare from angry drivers as we pass. Nearing Ganina Yama, we pass a growing number of beggars. And these are the same people who asked for alms at the Church on the Blood.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As I approach Ganina Yama, I hear the ring of bells from the monastery’s churches. I am pleased with this sound. People collect their last remnants of strength, and seek out a spot to rest. I am short of being delirious, that we have reached the very end. My only desire is to finally stop and sit down.

When I come to the entrance, many people are already sleeping along the road. They have spread mats and rub their tired and sore feet. Some eat, while others sleep. I sit down near a large rock by a pine and have a blissful rest. Snoring resounds around me.

Buses were on hand to take people from the monastery back to Ekaterinburg. For the pilgrims, there was surprise that the buses would only go as far as the village of Shuvakish, to the town of Sredneuralsk and to the 9th hospital in Ekaterinburg. Traffic police officers try to reassure every one that there are enough places for everyone, but as soon as the bus approaches, the believers storm the bus fiercely, pushing, stepping on each other’s feet and cursing one another. 

Those who do not want to suffocate, go on foot to Shuvakish and from there look for a way to get home. I am among them. Four kilometers more – and you can get in a taxi (cars are not allowed closer). Half past ten in the morning. “Thank God, take me home,” I say to the driver, and I immediately fall asleep in the backseat.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 March 2019