Saturday, July 3, 2010

Old Believers

June 29, 2010


Mary and I drove east of Anchor Point ( on the Sterling Highway north from Homer) ten miles to the end of the road and found Nikolaevsk. This village is one of the homes of Russian Old Believers, a persecuted Russian Orthodox sect (tens of thousands were killed during Peter the Great's time). This is a conservative people, still dressing in Old Russian costume and obeying Slavonic church rituals that are unchanged for centuries.


Nikolaevsk has a beautiful three domed Russian church, St. Nicholas, guarded by Archangels Michael and Gabriel. We had read about a Russian restaurant in the village, the Samovar, and found it. It was run by a dynamo woman named Nina Felkikov, who is excellent at making the tourist part with his money.


She reminds me of my step mother Sandra in many ways. She is forward, orders everyone around, and puts on a great feast of borscht, piroshky, and pelmeny. We ate Russian style, meaning that Nina put Russian costumes on us, and took many photographs with our cameras, then sat us down for the excellent meal. She bustled around taking care of us and another two couples who showed up around the same time. Her English is good but accented much like many of my Russian relatives. Her speaking is staccato, "two minutes until food, thirty seconds until you take this picture, two minutes to get this garment on and take more pictures, thirty seconds to sit down and eat."


Nina's restaurant is chocked full of bric-a-brac, and we walked away with two lacquered Russian soup spoons as well as some good memories. Nina played a CD with Russian music and I promised to send her another CD with Sandra's singing of Russian gypsy music.


Nina is an electrical engineer (Norwich University) but spends most of her time running her café in the summer. She came to the US after being born and raised in Khabarovsk. She met a widower in Nikolaevsk and married him about ten years ago. There is a picture of a very old woman who must have been her mother. The picture reminds me of Sandra's mother.


Nikolaevsk is a pretty basic place. There are several ordinary looking houses, but a few have lace curtains and blue roofs, very much in keeping with Old Russian custom. In the long winters people come to snowmobile in the area. For all I know, Nina keeps them warm with borscht.


After this experience Mary and I had difficulty staying awake with the short drive to our campground, and this was so even with no vodka at the meal. We took two pounds of frozen pelmeny with us and dined on some of them at our camper dinner this evening.

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