Minsk Essay 2018 by Kyril Kavetsky

Our youth trip to Minsk, Belarus served many purposes. Not only was it a religious and culturally enriching experience, it was an opportunity to make an impact in the Russian Orthodox community abroad.

From the moment of our arrival, we had the opportunity to venerate the Holy Relics of Saints Elizabeth and Barbara. We served a Moleben in the airport to them, and the Magnification chant (Velichania) followed the relics on their journey throughout Minsk. As we delivered the relics to the Holy Spirit Cathedral in downtown Minsk and Saint Elizabeth’s monastery in the suburbs, we witnessed thousands of people greeting the relics, with many traveling great distances to venerate them. For us American youth, this was not only spiritually inspiring; it served a great reminder of the blessings we have in our own churches.

Throughout the journey, we attended various Church services both in the cathedral and throughout the monastery. It was very refreshing to see how little of a difference there is between our Churches in America and those in Belarus. Despite being foreigners, these churches made us feel very at home. These large services were chanted by wonderful choirs, with a masterful choral group in the cathedral and a fantastic choir of nuns in the monastery. Their dedication to creating beautiful services to the Lord was highly gratifying.

At various points along the journey we had opportunities to engage with the Belarusian community. These engagements took the form of visits to homes for the disabled, dinners with members of clergy and leaders of the Church, meetings with other youth groups and discussions about youth life in Russian Orthodoxy, among many other wholesome encounters. Throughout these expeditions, we used and developed our Russian lingual skills to engage in discussion and share our experience, as well as to make new friends and spread good cheer.

The Holy Relics were graciously received by the city, as were we. The hospitality of the convent, coordinators, and new acquaintances made us feel very welcome wherever we went. Immersing into the culture of Belarus made it difficult to say goodbye. “Come back soon!” we were often told after every visit throughout the trip, often with bittersweet sympathy. Our experience of life in a Russian-speaking, Orthodox nation is one we will never forget.