Why the sisters sing Serbian songs
“You can save the fatherland, the fruit of a 500-hundred-year-long battle. Save and preserve, o God, -- the Serbian nation implores You”. The words of the national anthem of Serbia say much about the people inhabiting this country. An anthem-prayer! Russia had this, too, a long time ago… The times may have changed, the way of life in our countries changed, but Serbians and Russians are still the brethren-nations. Just as it was a hundred years ago, the Russian songs are sung today in Serbia, and the Serbian ones – in Russia. The sisters of our abode verified this in practice: they recorded a CD with the patriotic songs of Serbia, the disk which will become a gift to the fraternal Serbian nation.
|The cross procession around the Nativity-Theotokos church in the village of Cheterezh|
The sisters began learning Serbian songs for the first time last year, as they were going to Serbia for the festival of Orthodox choirs. It took place in the small village of Cheretezh and was dedicated to the church feast of the village.
Even then, at the first encounter with these cordial and children-like open people, the Serbs, our sisters loved them with all their hearts. As the saying goes, the Serbians are ready to give the very last thing to their guests: on extent of the festivities, the hosts, the dwellers of Cheterezh, did not rest for a minute – they were “serving”: handing around food, taking care of the participants of the festival. Hospitality is the national trait of the Serbs. As history shows, however, Serbians can be very different, too. To all who come to their land not with peace, this freedom-loving nation is ready to give a harsh rebuff. And this, too, is one of the sides of the Serbian nature. They so often had to fight for their independence that fortitude, patience, and readiness for self-sacrifice to the beloved Serbia, have become the integral traits of Serbian character, revealed even in small things.
During the festival, everyone got so close together that this festival became more like a family celebration: people would sing only out of the desire to give joy to one another. The sisters would confess later that they never met a more grateful audience than in Serbia.
A Serb is always a Serb
|Chernogorsko-Primorsky Metropolitan Amphilohiy|
A year later, the Urals received the guests. Our monastery was visited by Chernogorsko-Primorsky metropolitan Amphilohiy who had rendered much help to the sisters during their trip to the festival. They still remember the story told by the two Serbian drivers, Radisav and Slobodan, sent to the sisters by Metropolitan Amphilohiy: “The bishop, blessing us for the trip, told us: “Remember, you must do everything for the Russian sisters!” He smiled and added: “Even if they decide they’d like to buy a hotel – buy a hotel for them!”
Of course, our abode was preparing for the Bishop’s arrival with special care. The sisters wanted to please such a dear guest with something unusual. We decided that far from home, it would be most pleasing to him to hear his native speech, the familiar tunes: thus especially for his arrival, the chanter-sisters practiced the Serbian patriotic songs. When they started to sing about Kosovo, the Bishop was immediately transformed, listening to these songs familiar to every Serbian, as if for the first time in his life. And this again testified to the amazing unanimity of the entire Serbian nation: joy and grief, songs and prayers are shared amongst all Serbs; they unite all, from the common villager to a metropolitan.
Serbia is experiencing hard times now. Yet, the times were never easy for her. Russia always supported Serbia. Our countries, as two sisters, are bound together for many centuries by the unbreakable ties of mutual love and support. Therefore, having recorded the disk with the Serbian patriotic songs, the sisters had only thereby fulfilled the bidding of their hearts.
When men cry
“Sisters, but this is an anthem, not a lullaby,” – the agitated voice of a Serb Ivan interrupted the choir’s rehearsal. Ivan cooperated with the monastery on extent of the entire period while the recording was taking place. Acquaintance with him was a great luck for the sisters: Ivan Komatina is a Serbian, as fates decreed, cast in Russia, to the Urals.
At the rehearsals, his eyes would often become wet. This is a scary and a sublime sight when a man cries, explaining the whole tragedy of this small independent nation better than any words could. Every Serb, as it were, carries within himself the grief of the centuries-old history of Serbia. The modern Serbs can talk with about the events of a five-hundred-years old of remoteness with such simplicity and pain, as if everything happened only yesterday, and as if they themselves were the participants of these events. Ivan spoke a lot about the history of his country. Every song that the sisters would learn is dedicated to some historical event, most often – to one of the blood-shedding battles with the invaders of the Serbian land. Ivan tried to tell with as much details as possible, what was happening then, so that the sisters could feel the spirit of time, the spirit of Serbian patriotism.
|Kosovo field – the fresco in the church in the name of holy prince Lazarus|
The story about one of the most tragic events of the history of Serbia – the battle with the Turks on June 28th, 1389, on the Kosovo field, Ivan began with the words: “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia.” He then conveyed the holy tradition about how on the eve of this historical battle, a Heavenly Messenger appeared to prince Lazarus, and offered him to choose between a victory, the earthly glory of Serbia and the Kingdom of Heaven which could only be entered through suffering. The holy prince did not abdicate Christ and the Heavenly glory: he himself and all his retinue put down their heads on the Kosovo field in the battle with the cruel invaders. Since that time even until now, all the Serbs drink the bitter cup of earthly afflictions, in the patient waiting for the promised Heavenly Kingdom. And Kosovo, filled with the blood of the holy troops of Lazarus, became the greatest relic for every Serbian.
The majority of the Serbian patriotic songs are dedicated to the Kosovo tragedy, and these songs reflect all the might of the Serbian soul. To perform these songs, one has to become a little bit of a Serbian himself…
We sing because we are monks
|The sisters’ choir visiting the Serbian monastery Studenitsa
So, why in the end, the sisters of our abode sing Serbian songs? An answer to this question could be expressed in the words of one of the clergy members of our abode: “When I first heard these songs, my initial inclination was the desire to pray, to struggle with passions, to work arduously. And though the contents of the majority of these songs are about the tragic events in the life of the Serbian people, at the same time, there is no despondency, the songs are filled with faith in God’s intercession. And if someone asks the question, why monks sing those songs at all, I will answer: they sing them because they are monks. Who, if not the monks, can grasp the spirit of Orthodoxy, the spirit of sacrifice, the spirit of brotherly love to each other that is inherent in these songs? When we know that our neighbors and friends suffer somewhere, we are compassionate to them – and this is not some strained gesture but a manifestation of love. That is why we support the Serbian people and pray for our brethren-Slavs. You know, the Serbs have this saying: “Who will help Serbia? Only God in heaven and Russia on earth.” I think, this says it all.”
"Over There, Behind That Hill..." Serbian patriotic songs