Friday, February 5, 2010

The Romanovs

Yekaterinburg is known as the city where the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II and his family were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. There is a beautiful cathedral built close to the site where this horrible deed took place so many years ago. This is a brief history lesson about the Romanov's and the memorial that stands in remembrance today. Nicholas, became Tsar of Russia upon his father's sudden death at age 49 (due to kidney disease). Unready to inherit the throne, Nicholas is reported to have said, "I am not ready, I do not want it. I am not a Czar (Tsar)." Though he was an intelligent and kind-hearted man, he lacked any preparation to rule, and unfortunately, he continued his father's harsh polices.

Nicholas' Tsarina, the loving German princess Alexandra Fyodorovna, was also a liability. Like the Czar, she was not a ruler. When the Czar took control of the army in the front lines during World War I, he left his wife in charge of Russia because he only trusted her. She was indecisive, did not trust other peoples advice, and she was not intuitive in the ways of politics. The fact that she was from Germany also lessened her popularity.
Nicholas and Alexandra had four beautiful daughters, Olga, Tatyana, Marie, and Anastasia. They were also blessed with a son, Tsesarevich Alexis. Alexandra Fyodorovna had inherited a mutation gene from her grandmother, Queen Victoria,which caused hemophilia in her son.

A Russian Orthodox Priest arrives and walks the stairs to the cathedral.
During the night of March 2, 1917 Tsar Nicholas abdicated the throne. He and his family were placed in a kind of house arrest. They were kept in confinement at a couple of locations before being transported to Yekaterinburg on April 17, 1918. They were kept in a private home in the heart of Yekaterinburg. On the night of 16/17 of July, 1918, the royal family was awakened around 2 a.m. and told to dress, then they were led down to a half basement room at the back of the Ipatiev house (the home of military engineer Nikolay Ipatiev) and were told that it was for their safety as anti-Bolshevik forces were approaching. Present with Nicholas, Alexandra and their children were their doctor, and three of their servants, who had voluntarily chosen to remain with the family. A firing squad had been assembled and was waiting in the adjoining room. Nicholas was carrying his son; when the family arrived in the basement, the former empress complained that there were no chairs for them to sit on. When the chairs were brought in and they were seated, the executioners filed in. It was announced that they had been condemned to death by the Ural Soviet of Worker's Deputies -- the executioners drew revolvers and the shooting began. In 1991 the bodies of Nicholas II and his wife, along with three of their five children and four of their servants, were exhumed. Because two bodies were not present, many people believed that two Romanov children escaped the killings. In 1998 their remains were reburied in St. Petersburg, along with several of their loyal servants who died with them, in a special chapel called the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
On August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at a bonfire site near Yekaterinburg. The bones were found using metal detectors and metal rods as probes. On April 30, 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing proves that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters.
The Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia rejected the family's classification as martyrs because they were not killed because of their religious faith. Despite the original opposition, the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia ultimately recognised the family as "Passion Bearers", or people who met their deaths with "Christian humility".
Yekaterinburg's "Church on the Blood" is built on the spot where the last Tsar and his family were killed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Odds And Ends

At the end each day I am finding it harder and harder to sit down and compose a blog. We have reports that must be done, cooking and baking to do, and service to be rendered. So, while we still think of all you dear ones at home, who look forward to our adventures, I am afraid our blogs will be shorter and farther apart.

I snapped a picture of this odd little fellow outside a quaint souvenir shop in Old Stockholm while we were recently there on a visa trip. Cute in a strange sort of way. Towards the end of October we flew to Helsinki and then took a boat (ship) across the Baltic to Stockholm Sweden. We have been blessed to see many countries, meet interesting people, and have experiences that wouldn't have been possible had we served a mission outside of Russia. Still, we hope and pray that the policies governing missionaries/foreigners will be relaxed and the three month trips will become a thing of the past.

The sights along the shoreline were beautiful --

We were able to attend the Stockholm temple -- and we welcomed the peaceful break. Stockholm city center at night.

At the end of the summer we took a trip to the
country with the youth. We enjoyed a beautiful day hiking in the woods. Tying ribbons to trees is a tradition that is supposed to bring good luck.
Then we stopped at one of our youth's family dacha (garden home) and ate bar-b-qued pork.

This is a street meat market -- similar ones can be found all over the city. This must be a pretty good one because we have waited for the missionaries here many times and there always seems to be a line. The lady in the "delicatessen" takes the order, then whacks off a hunk of meat, weighs it, and puts it in a plastic bag. I was watching -- she did not wear plastic gloves, did not wash her hands between transactions, while taking money and using the cash register, and she scratched her nose a number of times. Ewe!!! The thing that is odd is Russians become very upset when you don't wear a hat -- Ron has been scolded several times. They think sickness comes from having your head exposed to the cold. The reason I took a picture of this bar was because of the odd sign on the street in front of it. Who would have thought -- a "Watch Out for The Drunks Crossing" sign. Only in Russia!
Oh, and Ron is not one of them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blessed Are The Children

"I am filled with charity, which is everlasing love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me;
wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and
partakers of salvation." Moroni 8:17
Matthew 18:4-5 "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little
child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso receive one
such little child in my name receiveth me."

After youth conference we were faced with the dilema as to how we would transport all of our quilts, kits, and shirts to the orphanages so far from Yekaterinburg. Christine and Gary Baker and their driver Aleksai came to our rescue and stuffed everything into their car. Then we waited for the orphanages to announce the dates and times for the graduation parties. Christine asked if she could take some of the quilts and kits to an orphanage that we had not originally planned on, but had great need. We had blankets and kits for all the children in the Nizhnaya Salda and Verkhnaya Salda so I gave her the green light. It was wonderful to think that we had enough, and to spare for blessing other children. Then, the last week in August I received an email from Christine Baker telling me that our two orphanages had planned their "Graduation Parties" and we were invited to take our gifts and distribute them. Our mission driver was not available, and we live about 2 1/2 hours from one of the homes and another 1 1/2 hour from there to the next one. It is a long way! However, we really, really wanted to be there to see the children, so we made our plans, and one of our YSA's agreed to drive. The night before we were to leave, our driver backed out -- he felt it was really too far, so we had to cancel the day. We felt bad, but we're grateful the Baker's carried our love with them and shared it so generously with these wonderful young people. As Gary and Christine gave the youth their gifts Christine told them the hygiene kits would help to keep them clean on the outside, but they must make good choices to help them feel and stay clean on the inside, giving them a few examples. She continued to tell them that the sewing kit should remind them that everyone makes mistakes, but it is important to correct our mistakes. When we do this it is like mending, and everything is good as new again. The blankets, she said, represent all the good people who have helped them along the way to feel safe and comforted. They should be careful to choose friends wisely and to look for reliable people to be their support system as they go on through life. Christine and Gary showed the youth the cards that we had attached to each quilt and told them each was a gift made with love.

The first party Christine and Gary attended, the staff did not allow the children to choose their own shirts, but made the choices for them. Christine said they were happy with the gifts, but there was a world of difference between the first and second orphanage. The caretakers in the second orphanage let the children choose -- the pictures show the fun they had, and how carefully they made their choices. Seldom do they have the opportunity to choose a new shirt of their own liking. The children take their time to select just the right one for them.

Let's see, I think I like this one -- so many choices! What fun!

Great choices! The children were so pleased, they quickly ran off to try on their new apparel. This is Stephen -- I would like to tell you a story about one of our quilts and how it made it's way into his hands and warmed his heart. The Lord is aware of his children and I believe he is especially mindful of the innocent, helpless ones. Elena is a caregiver who loves children -- she monitors their care in different orphanages and is a good friend of Christine. Late one night she was on her way back to Nizhni Tagil from a distant city where she was visiting with an old friend. As she started to leave a young man jumped in front of her car. At first she was startled, but then she recognized the youth as one of the orphans from an orphanage that housed children with disabilities that she had visited in the past. She rolled down her window and asked him what he was doing out that time of night, alone and so far away. He told her he was starting in a trade school in Nizhni Tagil but had traveled to this city to visit his sister's sick baby who was in the hospital. She offered him a ride back to Nizhni Tagil and once he was in the car his backpack fell open revealing the only thing he had was a few kopecks (much less than a penny). Because he had not eaten she offered him fresh bread and he quickly gobbled it up. She asked him what he would have done if no one had stopped for him and he said he would have walked the 18 miles back. He told her he had been praying all day for his little nephew and had asked the Lord not to take the baby, if possible, but to take him instead. Elena's tender heart worried about what might have happened to him had she not stopped. The next day Christine, her daughter Jill and Elena went to visit Stephen in his dorm and took him one of our quilts (the one with race cars -- very bright and colorful, a hygiene kit, some convenience foods, and some plates and cultlery). He was overwhelmed with gratitude. He examined every single thing in every bag, hugged everyone, and sang "America The Beautiful" to them, which he had memorized in English when he was at school. Stephen is only about 5 feet 2 inches and looks like he is about 14 years old --and probably has the mentality of a 12 year old, however, he really is about 17 years old. Stephen hugged each item to his heart, held them there, smiled and thanked Elena and Christine, saying over and over how much he loved everything. He was truly grateful.

Addendum: Recently we held a Relief Society Enrichment activity where we met and started a new project knitting/crocheting winter items for the orphans. We were busy learning, chatting, laughing and enjoying one another's company. Such a good day! Everyone took home their items with the promise to finish their work and return with finished gifts.

Sister Kopylov and Sister Vera proudly display the wonderful items they finished -- colorful socks, mittens, hats, and scarves. A labor of love that unites all -- the giver and the receiver. Maybe we will have another opportunity to take that love to the children of Nizhni Tagil.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Joy of Service

A DREAM IN THE MAKING -- QUILTS: Ron and I were looking for a worthwhile service project for our Young Single Adults. And we thought we could take it a step further and spread the joy of service to those in Relief Society, and to the people in our English Club. We wanted our service to be more than cleaning the city parks (although worthwhile). We envisioned those who participated to feel the joy one receives when they assist another person and give of themselves, helping that person to also feel loved. Sister Baker who lives in a town about 2 1/2 hours from Yekaterinburg is passionate about serving the children in several orphanages in towns around her home. I got in touch with her and she was excited about the prospect of our service.

I was never alone -- Ron was always with me -- cheering me on, setting up the frame, carrying the supplies, remaining patient while I took up all the floor space in our little apartment, and quietly giving of his time while I marked the quilts (which took a lot of time!).

When we first started the quilt project we did not know what the YSA budget would be for service, so we purchased only a few supplies. Ron and I went to OBI (a store similar to Home Depot) and bought wood and clamps for the quilting frame. Getting them home on the bus is another story -- do you know how much we take our cars for granted at home? I bought material for two quilts. The first people kind enough to help us with our 'orphan project' were those who attended our English Club. A quilt was stretched on the frame before the start of English and we invited those who were interested to join us -- it was the first time many had ever tied a quilt. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to visit and get to know one another while we worked. I also asked some in other cities if they might like to prepare a quilt to give to the orphans. Sister Palmer in Tymen readily agreed to buy material, and assigned the sisters in her branch to create a quilt block. She even enlisted the help of some of the missionaries, and all worked together to come up with a beautiful gift that will warm not only the body, but also the heart of one of these less fortunate youth. A quilt was also created by the youth in a neighboring mission, the Novosibirsk Mission. They brought their gift with them all the way across Siberia by train and proudly donated it to our cause.

When we received the generous donations from kind folks at home we went to work in earnest purchasing material, thread, yarn, and batting. It was not an easy task -- we do not have a JoAnn's nearby. It must have been a funny sight to see me and one of our sweet YSA carrying 20 yards of rolled batting through the streets of Yekat --too much to try to stuff on public transportation. Without a car we had to make many trips back and forth, exhausting the quality (Yekaterinburg does not have a lot of good quilting supplies) material in one shop and then moving on to another. I was able to enlist the help of those youth who had sewing machines to take a quilt at a time and sew the pieces together. I also was able to borrow a machine from the branch RS and I sewed daily. By the end of July one corner of our apartment was filled with 20 'ready to tie' quilts and we were prepared to move to the next step. We bagged each quilt individually, threaded needles, and put the yarn, needles, scissors, and a card to be signed by each of the service participants in each bag. YOUNG SINGLE ADULT CAMP - CELEN 2009:

While we were at the camp it rained every day and was chilly so we needed to revise the plan to be outdoors. Initially we were going to spread the quilts across picnic tables or on the grass where they could be stretched and the YSA's could navigate the tying process. In the end, we used whatever space in the buildings that would accommodate several quilts, plus the participants -- but we did not have the luxury of a lot of room. We had to crowd into an area that was too small for the stretching of material, working elbow to elbow and with few chairs. We were given 1 1/2 hours to complete the 20 quilts and assigned 8 youth to each quilt. It was remarkable that the quilts turned out so well -- I only had to make corrections on a few. Please notice the happy faces and intense concentration as the youth worked together, laughing, chatting, threading -- needles down, needles up, clip and tie. (I had taken pictures of all the quilts and those who joyously worked together to complete them, but unfortunately, I lost my camera the last hour of the last day. I want to thank many friends and acknowledge their kindness as my email box filled with the following lovely pictures)

Back home in Yekat we surveyed the service that had been accomplished and we were thrilled with the results!

SEWING AND HYGIENE KITS: We had limited places to lay out our supplies and assemble our kits. The young people chose the floor at the end of two halls to set up their assembly lines and were excited to get to work. Each sewing kit contained 4 different colors of thread, needles, pins, a pin cushion, a measuring tape, scissors, buttons, post it notes, and a pen. Each hygiene kit contained soap and dish, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, band aides, shampoo, razors, Q-tips, tissues, a brush and a comb.

Sister Baker donated beautiful silk bags that she had purchased while visiting China. Each bag was filled to the top, and all of the sewing supplies were put into cute little bags purchased on sale at IKEA. (Yes, we have one in Yekat).


We had 75 shirts to decorate. We divided the youth into groups -- paint, applique, and buttons. They were given the assignment to make the shirts for boys, girls, or either, and for the different age groups at the orphanages. They could use their creativity and make a work of art. I was amazed at the beautiful artwork that came from these talented youth -- the shirts were impressive! I am posting just pictures because I think the pictures speak well for themselves. Please notice how seriously they took their assignment, and also the joy on their faces as they worked together.

This Post comes with a huge "THANK YOU" to all who contributed so generously to this dream. We hope you can see the wonderful things your gift has given, but it doesn't end here - this is the gift to those serving. Next post will show the joy of those receiving. Serving brings joy to the giver and to the receiver - may we all look for ways to serve.