November 29th, 2006
It has been a long road to tomorrow; but now only the night separates us from our hope. Emotionally this process has been beyond anything we could have conceived. But on the eve of “our day” my heart is at peace. I am ready to meet them.
The day began with Tanya informing me that the forecast for the day was “frigid”. It snowed during the night and the morning was still overcast. Today was our “free” day. It was a day for us to calm our hearts and prepare ourselves for our time tomorrow. We thought the best way to accomplish that was through some site seeing. So we bundled up to embrace the weather and met with Yanna at 10:30am.
After a brief stop at the Opera House, Yanna took us to the “Church over Blood”. This was the church built over the location where the last Russian Czar and his family were executed. It is an Orthodox Church. The building is narrow, cross shaped, but rather tall over the cross. There is a monument of the Czar and his family surrounding a cross in front of the church. There is a tower crowned with a golden down over the center of the cross.
Inside, the church has two floors. The first floor contains several alters to various saints and prayers. Each alter contains several icons with candles set before them. Several people of a range of ages light the candles and pray. Some sing the prayers some chant. As we entered the building a mass held on the second level was concluding. A Russian choir sang and the building responded to the hymns.
We approached the center of the cross on the first floor. To the right were icons of each member of the Czar’s family that was executed; they have since been canonized. To the backdrop of an elderly woman hypnotically chanting a prayer, Yanna tells us the legend of Anastasia – the daughter whose body was never found. Yanna then goes on to explain that each alter is to either a Saint or a prayer. One may be a prayer for forgiveness, another for health. People come in and light a candle upon the alter of the prayer they seek and chant. The mix of chants had a calming effect on my soul. I said a prayer of my own in preparation of our day.
The second floor is where mass is held. There is partition that blocks the top portion of the cross shaped building. Inside, the priest who just concluded mass was chanting a prayer in a voice so pure you would think an angel had descended to bless the church. Others were before their own alters chanting their own prayers and though the prayers differed the sounds blended to become one as they echoed up the tower at the center of the cross to meet the painting of Christ which adorned the top of the dome.
Outside again Yanna took us to a small wooden house to the right of the church. It was the house where executions took place.
After the “Church over Blood” we drove ten minutes outside the city to the monument which sat between Asia and Europe. Tanya stood in Europe and I in Asia as we took the obligatory tourist picture.
Lunch today was at one of Yanna’s favorite restaurants. The food today was Serbian. Yanna had a chicken kabob, Tanya had grilled chicken wrapped in bacon, and I had something called “Serbian Donut” which is a meat pattie of a variety of ground meet and gouda cheese. Double Yum.
We did some obligatory shopping; though to be fair the first stop was my request. We purchased some Russian children stories. My plan is to learn to read them and then read them to the children on the second trip when we bring them home. We also picked up some Russian CDs and DVDs.
And now I sit here writing this blog article on what is hopefully the last day I go to sleep not knowing the faces of my children. More than anything that is what has been the most difficult to manage emotionally. For months now I have felt them in my heart. I have cast my soul forward in time and felt them in my arms; but to walk each night through their rooms and picture them sleeping in their beds, but not be able to see their faces has been maddening.
When things were at their worst, when we felt like this trip would never happen, we persevered by saying a small prayer: Let there be peace in our hearts so that we can be open to God’s will. That prayer is why we held together. It is the prayer I say when my heart races. It is the prayer I said in the church today. It is how we arrived at today and why we are prepared for tomorrow. For those of you who pray, I ask you say this prayer for us and send us your strength. Tomorrow is fast approaching.