- About the project
This blog’s purpose is to document the making of a documentary, respectively a crossmedia project. The topic: The Russian Old-Believers who live at the shore of Lake Peipus, the life and daily reality of people here in these villages, their stories and memories and thoughts. While the Old-Belivers and their traditions are the main topic, we also look around and keep an open eye for whatever else interesting is going on.
From August 7th until August 19th, 2010, we come here to first look around and get to know the area and people, and then also to film and take photographs of what we find. There will be a second trip to the area approximately in October, and a third one in winter 2010/2011.
Our plan is to create a website that will collect various stories, people, memories from the villages, and provide an insight into the life of these people. Parallel to this, we will produce a documentary film.
The project team are Marc Brummund, a freelance director from Hamburg; Bettina Herzner, a freelance DOP from Hamburg; and Rene Fischer, partner at the advertising agency The Matter. They are supported by Katerina Hitruhhina and Mairi Hüüdma from Tallinn. Photos on this blog are taken by all these five.
- Day 10: Raja church, female priest, Bettina exploration
After breakfast, we went to a village called Raja in order to meet Osip Jotkin, who is involved with the Old Believer church in this village. The church is famous for the very special icons it has, painted by a master icon painter called Frolov. We want to meet Osip so he can tell us about the particularities of the Raja church, the icons, the history of their community.
We meet Osip at the side of the road, as agreed, in front of his house, where he sells onions and tomatoes. Osip is a cheerful and charismatic person, a picture of the “nice grandfather” with a big white beard and a face that tells of a colorful and active life. We buy some tomatoes from him and start talking about his family, his daughters, and life in general, as well as about the police who had just parked across the street to do speed checks of passing cars, and whom Osip of course knows, too.
He tells us about Frolov, the church which Frolov paid for with his own money, about the school of icon painting and how young people were taught to read and write Church Slavonic, and about the history of the Old Believer community in Raja. He then takes us to the church, and we’re allowed to have a look at the main hall which is full of amazingly crafted icons; he explains us some of the icons, their history, and some of the rituals of the Old Believers which we had witnesses before, but never were explained. We also see the room where Frolov lived with a collection of memorabilia, and the former study rooms. Indeed the icons in Raja church are impressive works of art, and Osip is one more great and fascinating person to speak with, who possesses a huge knowledge of his region and religion, and is happily sharing it.
Later on, Bettina and Katerina go to talk with one priest (respectively a ceremony leader) of the Kolkja Old Believer church, who happens to be a woman. And Mairi is back from Tallinn – while we pick her up from Tartu railway station, Bettina explores the lakeside villages by herself with the camera.
- Day 9: Early church, transcripts, rain
We really did it and woke up before 6:00 on a Sunday in order to go to church – that’s not exactly the most common thing to do for any of us. This gave us a chance to witness another beautiful sunrise though. A bit after 6:30 we’re near the Kasepää church, the ladies in proper dresscode. We take some photos, and a few minutes later Father Andrej arrives on his bicycle to get ready for the morning service.
We can’t say it was easy for us: The early morning, a lack of coffee, and then more than two hours of church service… in all honesty, we had some difficulties to stay awake in there. The meditative way of reading the holy texts, the minimal melodies, the olibanum, the relative darkness inside the church, and all this standing. We tried our best to sit through (or rather, to stand through) the whole service, but nevertheless all of us had to leave once or twice for a few minutes to take some steps and some fresh air outside. That said, it was of course a very interesting experience, very intense, very different, and very spiritual.
After the service, we have a brief chat with Father Andrej, who is visibly exhausted as well and told us he’d go back home to have a nap, because in the afternoon he already has to go to Varnja for a christening. We went back to the houses to discuss what else we’d do that day, Katerina continues the tough work of transcribing the recorded videos, as the others are doing some other work. As we are almost ready to go on and use the beautiful late afternoon and evening light for some more filming, the weather turns worse quickly, and we have to decide to stay inside: Grey sky, rain and wind make filming impossible.
Instead, we go to buy some more food in Kallaste, and decide to have dinner at the “Kala- ja Sibularestoran” (the “Fish and Onion Restaurant”) in Kolkja, a place the Old Believers opened up to serve their traditional food to an interested public. Dumplings with fish, fish with onions, and generally fish in all kinds of ways, usually accompanied by onions in all sorts of ways – the amount of key ingredients is limited, but the kitchen is nevertheless very varied and tasty.
A friend of Rene who happens to be nearby invites us for some sauna and fish in the afternoon, but we just can’t manage to get everybody together at the same time. Later in the evening, she brings us some fish and other goodies – and we’re not even home, so we get them later on from the landlord lady.
As the weather in the evening is still rather bad, and it’s too cold for the traditional lakeside barbecue, we stay inside and… watch a film. For the first time during this trip.