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Update from Odessa

Update from Rev. Andrei Ziltsov. Odessa

Dear friends!
Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

Easter this year was a very essential experience! The seriousness of Holy Week was felt much more clearly than usual, especially during the daily Gospel work and the common reading of the Gospel texts at the hour of the death of the cross in front of the altar. And the real miracle was that the joy of Easter is a reality that no war can stand in the way of. The joy was quiet and tender, but very clear and deep, and also the hope for the future was and is really present. Despite that everything else is also present.  Of course, without any confidence that tomorrow something will change radically, but everything will already have a meaning. And the hope that from the graves of souls a new future can rise.

On Easter Sunday we had a human consecration ceremony at 7:30 in Ukrainian and then again at 10:00 in Russian. The first time was due to curfew, which lasted until 6:00 am, and we wanted to give people a chance to arrive on time. At 11 o’clock we could even celebrate a Sunday act with 4 children and afterward, as it is proper, enjoy a festive table. On that day, many people who had not been in the community for a while came to the ceremonies and I was surprised that, despite the fact that many had fled, we had a total of forty “feast-guests” together.

Today is the 62nd day of the war. The events in Ukraine are more and more localized to the east and south, and by south we mean not only Mariupol and Melitopol but also Kherson, Nikolayev, and Odessa. After the sinking of the armored cruiser “Moskva” two weeks ago, the situation in Odessa had become somewhat more relaxed for a few days, although hardly a day or night passed without air alarms or explosions.  And life in the city had become a lot more lively: quite a few people had returned, some cafes were and are open and even some activity can be seen on some construction sites. I was even able to visit a hair salon on my birthday! And then it came again last Saturday: the whizzing of an anti-aircraft missile right over the community center, explosions in town, and the burning of an apartment building three kilometers from us. In the meantime, we had in the house two confirmands, who stayed in Odessa with their parents all the time, and some helpers. The matter especially upset the children but did not prevent them to go for a walk after an hour. And even the task: to find something that gives joy and strength to the soul, – was brilliantly fulfilled. The children enthusiastically told about the grass… and flowers… and even a little lamb. In this way, we prepared for confirmation this year. And on Sunday Dasha and Lola wished that at the confirmation some unoccupied chairs in their row be put down, so that in this way we could include all the other children who belong to the group and are now in Germany, Poland, Spain, and elsewhere. And there it came again: the true Easter spiritual reality: quietly, but surely and inexorably. The feast was a real one and afterward, we could play boisterously and greet the now confirmed young people.
Otherwise, we are in contact with friends in Eastern and Western Ukraine. We offer to move to Odessa to people who are in a worse situation, and it is wonderful to see how Waldorf-anthroposophical life in the west of the country is inspired and blossoms by Waldorf teachers who have come from Kyiv, Dnjepr, and Odessa.

On the streets of the city or in the supermarkets warm short conversations arise with unknown people because everyone is much more open and helpful than usual. It is strange how this exists together, as if in parallel worlds: Attacking troops, who are about 170 km away from Odessa and are constantly shelling the neighboring city of Nikolaev from some “Grad”, “Igla” and whatever the stuff is called; the permanent missile danger from the air in Odessa and the “almost-normal-looking” life in many spots in our city.

The Odessa parish continues to carry the daily rhythm of consecration acts, alternately in Ukrainian and Russian. There are quite a few people from the parish active as volunteers, always doing or collecting something for the refugees or for the army.

We were even able to celebrate a baptism about two weeks ago. Because the godmother came to Odessa for three days and the family wanted to use the opportunity to “give the child a godsend”. It was necessary to quickly look for another godfather, because the “old” one supported the fact of war from the side of the aggressors, if not outwardly, but inwardly. The preparation was fast and turbulent, but at last, we were all allowed to congratulate the happy Vasilisa and her family.

During Holy Week I decided to record daily video sermons. A new experience – to speak blindly “in front of no one”. My wife is teaching two eurythmy students “live” in the parish hall and many others are online 4 days a week. As fate would have it, on the first day of the war – February 24 – I was supposed/allowed to give an online lecture in Forum 3 about Ukraine, later also some talks and interviews with friends in the West. Now it is to go online to the proseminar east to Moscow from 6 to 9 May. During my last visit to Russia, we agreed with Annushka that we should start it there as well. Now more than a dozen students are registered and we don’t want to cancel it either. Am curious!!!

Otherwise, besides the church’s everyday life, I work in the Ukrainian anthroposophical Sophia Foundation. Thanks to many donations from Europe, we have already been able to provide 400 individuals and families with emergency aid. Soon we want to have a flyer printed to appeal for donations in Europe. If any of you can help with printing and distributing flyers as widely as possible in the anthroposophical institutions and foundations, please contact me (or use admin@thechristiancommunity.org)

In this spirit, I greet/hug you all warmly from Odessa and look forward to seeing you again.

Yours, Andrei Ziltsov.
Odessa. 26.04.22

Note: Original available here.

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