Dear Mr. Davies,
I did want to take the liberty of sharing this with you, so that this wonderful lady’s memory might be fixed somewhere more permanently than my mind alone.
Perhaps you can add this to your data base, or post it on your blog.
Your photographs of the Church of St. John on the Ishnya River, near Rostov (pp. 234-35) brought it to mind.
In the summer of 1976, a group of us, four American college students, and our Intourist driver/guide, were traveling around the Golden Ring.
While in Rostov, we, of course, went to see the Church of St. John on the Ishnya.
At that time the care-taker was named Nadezhda Constantinovna (we did not learn her surname).
She it is who appears in this photograph which I took in front of the church. She lived there in the village.
She was an amazing lady, totally dedicated to caring for “her” church. She told us that she and her husband had been married in it many years before.
Nadezhda Constantinovna kept it spotless â€” the polished floors and woodwork shone like golden honey.
It was a dry, summer day, and we only entered the church for a short time, but immediately she got out her cleaning rags and started to polish the floor behind us.
Then I did something a bit daring for a foreigner in those days. Being a “country boy” I was very intrigued to see what the inside of an occupied izba looked like (not the peasant ones in the museums).
Nadezhda Constantinovna was a bit reluctant, but eventually we prevailed upon her hospitality, and she let us in.
It was a very pleasant visit. I have the warmest memories of that day.
Thirty years later, in 2006, we were once again in Rostov with a group of Orthodox Christian pilgrims. I gave a copy of this photograph to the guide staff there, and they all remembered Nadezhda Constantinovna most fondly. They promised to give the photograph to her relatives.
It is thanks to those dedicated babushkas like Nadezhda Constantinovna that we still have such wooden treasures.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery
PS: In the upper, right-hand corner of the photo, the tablet marking the church as an historical monument can just be seen.