Татьяна Рыжова

Много лет преподавала английский язык и литературу в университете. Пишу стихи, рассказы для детей и перевожу на русский и английский языки стихи и прозу. Ещё освоила искусство живописи пастелью. Являюсь членом Союза писателей России.Родилась в Казахстане.

Повесть «The Wonderland of Pechory»


The day, to their good fortune, was very sunny and welcoming.

Mother and the children smartened themselves up and joined father who had been patiently waiting for them in the open. The monastery was but a step from their place, and in no time they found themselves entering the yard of the monastery through the gate beneath Petrovskaya tower.

Oh, how beautiful the monastery was on that first day of June! Not far off, all in early summer verdure, there rose Svyataya Gora (Holy hill) – the top of the Monastery.

«Mummy-daddy, let’s go there and see what there is there», suggested the children.

The young ones were promptly ascending the hill, mother and father were hardly able to keep pace with them.

«I guess it is exactly what “bliss” means» said mother slowly, breathing in the odour of early summer verdure, «not for nothing people call this place Garden of Eden»

Charmed with the loveliness they viewed, and the imposing monastery the children fell silent.

«Come here, will you?», father called them. He was standing near a mighty oak. It seemed to the children that it had got there over from mother’s tales, and that in a second it would speak in a squeaky from a great age voice.

«How old may it be?» asked Masha, quite impressed.

«I know that it is of the same age with the monastery, which means that it is about four hundred and a half centuries old», father replied.

Misha was on the point of uttering «Wow!», but remembering mother’s advice to avoid using foreign words needlessly, said: «Uh ty!».

«By the way», mother remarked, «one of such trees has something to do with the legend about the discovery of the Caves.

«I say, let’s go to the caves right now, I dreamed of going there for long!», Misha said eagerly.» His sister supported this idea with enthusiasm. Mother doubted if the caves were open for visiting that day, but the children were so pressing that they decided to go and find out all about that.

There were a lot of visitors in the yard of the monastery: elderly and young people, children with their parents. Here and there one could hear foreign speech. They all were so different, but there was something that made them alike. It was the expression of the people’s faces – bright, elated, such as a person has when he is completely happy or else when his most cherished dream comes true. Some of them were admiring the surrounding them beauty, some were making for the churches to pray there and to touch sacred relics.

«How many pilgrims are there in the Monastery to-day!»,Masha exclaimed.

«And do pilgrims come only from Russia?», asked Misha.

«Not necessarily. Russian people and foreigners who live in other countries come too, to bow to the sacred things.»

«How lucky we are to live in Pechory, right near the sacred things. And can we be called pilgrims then?» inquired Misha.

«I think we can, for we too came here to bow to the sacred things», mother explained.

The caves, as mother had thought, were closed for visiting that day. The twins were upset. Masha began even whimpering. An old clergyman was passing by. His kind eyes rested on the children. He slowed down the pace and came up to the young pilgrims. It seemed that he knew everything about the children, and without asking a single question he said: «Well, my little ones, you needn’t be so rueful and despondent. You are sure to come here more than once, and one day the Caves will open their door to you, with God’s will. And right now you’d better go to the group of pilgrims over there, they will just start an excursion. And, addressing the parents, he added: «Inock Pavel is a very good guide. Besides, you are to hear from him the legend of the Caves. The children will enjoy it.»

Then he stroked down first Masha’s then Misha’s hair, crossed the family and hurried on his own business.

«And who is Inock?», got interested Misha in the unfamiliar word.

«Well, it’s a synonym of the “monk”, but this word is used very rarely now», explained father.

Masha, becoming quite cheerful, urged her parents and brother: « Well, let’s hurry up to where Batyushka said to go!»

In less than a minute they have joined the group of people who formed a tight ring as if protecting something precious inside. An elderly monk was standing in the center. In a soft but very distinct and heartfelt voice, he was telling the pilgrims about the ancient history of the Monastery: «We are standing now on the holy land, the air of which is saturated with the prayers of many generations of orthodox believers. Located 52 kilometers from glorious ancient Pskov, the Holy Dormition Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery starts its earliest history from 1392 when the Caves Made by God had been discovered. At that time, in place of the Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery there was a thick impenetrable fores,t cut with ravines and rivers. The water in rivers was so clean and transparent that every fish could be seen through it. And there was a lot of fish too. In the forest there were much more beasts and wild animals than are found there now. And people at that time lived in harmony with nature, in return it fed and clothed them. Of course, they worked indefatigably: ploughed and sowed, grew flax and mowed, gathered berries and mushrooms in the forest, bred poultry and cattle. Men, as a rule, were skilful hunters. Their houses, though not mansions, were always warm and there was smell of fresh bread and herbs in them. And there gathered a large family at the dining table, which consisted not of one or two children but, sometimes, of ten or even more kids.

There lived once such a family not far from ancient Isborsk. The younger children helped about the house, the eldest son was his father’s right hand. One day they went hunting and, it must be said, they were excellent hunters. The weather was exactly as it is now: the Sun was smiling, early many- voiced little birds were chirping, grass-hoppers were chirring, butterflies and dragon-flies were fluttering about. One couldn’t be but gay in such a jocund company!

Father anticipating good hunting was walking in a rapid pace along the familiar path, deeply breathing in the salubrious woods air. His son kept close on father’s heels, trying to imitate even his gait.

The hunting appeared, indeed, to be very good. The pleased hunters were about to go back: it was getting dark and they were rather far from home, besides, the bag was too heavy. They only stopped for a minute at the spring to have a drink, when, all of a sudden, they heard a wonderful sinning which seemed to come from under the earth. «Who might that be?», they thought in surprise and decided that only angels alone can sing like that.

For a long time father and son had been listening to that lovely singing, in vain trying to find out where it was issuing from. And so they went home, puzzled.

That mysterious happening was being much talked about by people all through the neighbourhood of Izborsk, but time passed and gradually the strange event was forgotten.

Time later, the way of another peasant Ivan Dementiev by name, who lived in Pachkovka village, happened to lie through that very place. He noticed some trees on the hill slope which were very good for building –all of the same size, tall and smooth. He just needed such logs. Without delay he harried home, harnessed his mare and came back to that place. And so he rolled up his sleeves and set to work, felling one tree after another. The work went on swimmingly. Suddenly one falling tree caught and entailed some others, standing close by. And then under a rooted tree there opened the entrance to a hidden cave. Above the entrance it was written in big letters: «Caves Made by God» or, as some say, «Not of Human Making Caves». Isn’t it a true wonder?!

And then the people came to know that there had been living hermits, praying in seclusion. They had to run away from other parts for the sake of saving their faith and clandestine serving God. They did not build houses and churches on the ground, but used for living a deep cave, constantly deepening and widening it with their hands. It was at the beginning of the 14 th century.

At this point the guide stopped talking and looked at Misha: «As I see, young man, you have a question to ask me, don’t you? Misha decided that the man could read people’s thoughts and asked very politely: «I would like to know about who made that inscription above the cave. «The facts prove that it was not made by the hermits. Most likely, it appeared due to some miracle. And when once a man wanted to erase this inscription it appeared again, all by itself.»

Misha was pleased with the answer and the speaker proceeded: «It’s here that a numerous brotherhood of orthodox prayers and true sons of Russian land would be gathered later, and the Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery you see now would appear». But it took not one day. Many efforts of many wonderful people during some centuries had been made before it became as beautiful as you see it now. It is known that the first cave church was dug in Svyataya Gora by monk Iona who came there from Pskov right after he heard about the discovery of the Caves Made by God. In the year of 1473 the church was consecrated in honour of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God. This date is considered to be the birthday of our monastery.

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