I see these pictures almost every day… I have known their story for a long time and have told many people about it… It is time to get used to it… And yet, I almost cry every time I look at them.
Yes, I am sentimental, but this is different. These are not bitter tears, but sweet ones. Perhaps, these are just my fantasies, but these pictures make me feel a breath of THAT life. I know nothing about that life, but the one who drew the pictures knew it. It is a breath of eternity. It is here, before the pictures, where I can feel, like nowhere else, that death does not exist. A door will simply open and there will be light and warmth behind it. You will take a step, turn around, smile in farewell and go THERE towards God… There will be joy, quiet and calm, and there will not be grief, evil and sickness. There everything is all right and everyone loves and awaits you… There is your home…
… It is a very sad, but light story… The story about a girl, death and God… and about an unsolved mystery…
… One day, five years ago, I brought my elder daughter Varenka to a Sunday school on the premises of the Archangel Michael Church in Troparevo for the first time. She was three years old.
We came there early. We were very worried and were afraid to be late just like any newcomers… We took off our coats and went to the hall. No one was there… It was quiet… We groped for the switch on the wall and the light went on. We saw pictures. They were not drawings, but indeed pictures and there were a lot of them, perhaps a few dozens. We came closer.
“Mom, remember we were reading?” whispered Varya. “Look, it is God. Oh, and the Theotokos. Oh, look, there is Zacchaeus on a tree…” “Yes, yes, I remember,” said I in a whisper too, for some reason, although it was just us.
The entire Gospel was drawn with colored pencils in a very beautiful and loving way. Yes, yes. I even thought back then: “Amazing. It is truly the Gospel for children. Or for those who cannot hear or cannot read. Even a three-year-old can recognize everything.”… Everything that happened at the time of Jesus Christ Himself was pictured so thoroughly, step by step, not missing a single detail. In my amateur opinion, it was done in a very professional way. “Some artist, maybe,” concluded I.
Meanwhile, my daughter was tugging my hand to go further: “Mom, here they are sinking, but Jesus will save them, won’t He? Here is a sick man, but I forgot who he was… Oh there, He is carrying the cross. He is so sad! Look, He is almost crying”. We went from one picture to another and Varyushka was commenting non-stop.
“Do you like it?” someone said behind us. We were so fascinated with the pictures that we did not notice when a woman entered. Later we found out that it was a teacher of “pre-school” children named Ksenia Ivanovna. We would soon love her very much.
“Amazingly, it was such a short life, but so full!” she said after a pause. “I am amazed every time I see it.”
“Why short?” I grew wary. “Why, you do not know? Oh. You are the newcomers,” Ksenia Ivanovna smiled unhappily. “It was drawn by a girl. She died. This is her parting gift for us.”
I pulled Varyushka closer for some reason, “What was her name? Did she go to this school?” “No, she was not from here. We do not know her name,” Ksenia Ivanovna replied. “We barely know anything about her… Some say she was fifteen, others say she was twelve. Today no one will remember exactly.”…
… It was a long time ago, almost twenty five years have passed. Back then, divine services had just resumed to be held after a period of desolation in our church. One day a man came to the rector of the church, Father Georgy Studenov. The man appeared to be the father of the girl. He brought a few large folders, in which there were these pictures.
“He said that his daughter had been very sick and died. She loved the Gospel very much,” the rector remembers. “She painted and painted… She painted God and everything she read about. Even dying, she still read and drew.” After her death, her parents decided to give the pictures to the church, to the Sunday school. Later, a parent of the Sunday school student, being an artist himself, made frames for the pictures.
“Why did not they keep it? I do not know it… Perhaps, it was too painful for them to look at them,” Father Georgy noted. “Maybe they hoped that the Lord would keep their daughter alive, but He judged differently. They prayed to Him, meanwhile the Angels were already carrying her pure soul to Him tenderly and happily.”
The man left his contacts, but unfortunately, they were lost during the restoration of the church. The “seniors” of the school said they tried to find this family and dreamed of speaking with them about this wonderful girl and of knowing more about her. They asked everyone about it… “But, perhaps, the Lord desired to keep his name hidden from us,” said Tatiana Borisovna (she was a teacher at the Sunday school before). “Even so, we hope… Although many years have passed, we still hope that someone of her relatives or acquaintances will come to us someday…” Father Georgy confessed.
… Years pass… Children from our school grow up. Some have already brought their children to the school. Every newcomer, just as I that day, stops before these pictures and asks: “Who drew this?” Then, they listen to the story, about a short life of a child which was full of God. Having heard it, everyone falls silent. Some hides their tears. Almost everyone starts to cross themselves…
The girl is long gone, but her pictures live. And indeed, she is not dead. She just went to the world, which she knew and pictured. Having turned back for a moment and smiled, she went to God… These pictures are her parting smile to us… And also the joy of meeting God, Whom she loved so much…
Translated from the Russian by Maria Trushanina.
The photos were taken by Vadim Prischepa.