How Lipovan Russians Live

TULCEA Our journey to a few of the Dobrogean places inhabited by Lipovan Russians began in the town of Tulcea. Before everything else, we wanted to stop over in those neighborhoods where the population of Lipovans is more or less compact. There are two neighborhoods fitting the description in the town: the Turkish neighborhood (on the East side of the town) and Komarovka (on the West side).The Turkish neighborhood kept its former semi-town look in many respects. One can find here many Lipovan traditional houses and courtyards. Maybe that's why, in recent years, the custom of celebrating the popular feast of Cheese and Milk Week was revived here by the monument of the unified Dobrogea. Komarovka mainly developed the look of a modern urban neighborhood where people are separated not by courtyards but by adjoining streets and flats built somewhat in a hurry on the site of the Lipovan houses which had been demolished, or of the once famous gardens and vineyards. Until not long ago, the Turkish neighborhood was inhabited by believers of the Old Church without priests, and they still have two churches there. About five years ago, one of the churches received a priest, whereas the other remained non-functional. The believers of the Old Church from Komarovka with a priest own a church whose patron is St. John the Theologian. We decided to collect information on this church from Father Evlampi. But it wasn't meant to be. Although we had been warned by good people not to go to him, we still did. We were hoping for a fruitful discussion. It was proven that the father had a most unflattering opinion on our secular community, which prevented the honorable priest from acting reasonably with regard to our request of having a chat with him.The modern cultural life among the believers of the Old Church in the town of Tulcea has its roots in the 50s. "Ever since its creation at the beginning of the 50s," says Cozma (Cuzea) Evtei, "the Folk Song and Dance Ensemble was a great success not only in Tulcea county, but also far away. Nowadays, its tradition is continued by the Lotca amateur ensemble led by the Russian language teacher Petre Moiseev and by the talented folk musician Serioga Alexandrov."Also during the 50s, the basic preoccupation of Russian Lipovan men in Tulcea was fishing. Chiril Iurov (Chiriusca), may he rest in peace, when talking about his fishermen brigade, remembered the sheatfish's names depending on its size: pan – 50-200 kg, iarma – over 20 kg, iaprak – up to 2 kg, moaca – up to 1 kg, then he counted the sturgeon species that would frequently fall into their nets: the sterlet, the stor sturgeon, the Black Sea sturgeon, the beluga. The last one, had it been over 75 kg, it could have had black caviar.We also went to the Cemetery of the 1916-1918 Heroes. At the entrance there was this sign in Romanian and Russian: "The mausoleum of the heroes from the regiments 33 and 74, fallen on the battleground during the First World War 1916-1918", and right next to it the epitaph: "They are dead, but they live inside each and every one of us". In the center of the cemetery there is an obelisk on which it is written, still in both languages: "Eternal glory to the Soviet Army fighters who sacrificed their lives in the battle for liberating humankind from the fascist slavery." On the left side of the obelisk there are 69 tombs of former Soviet troops, and three tombs of partisans who fought in the Danube Delta until the arrival of Soviet troops.On most of the funeral stones there is usually the name of the deceased, whereas some of them bear the word "unknown". When we visited the cemetery, a group of simple women were cleaning up. The heroes of the two world wars and their sacrifice are not forgotten...As many of the inhabitants of Tulcea, Lipovan Russians felt the consequences of the transition period towards the market economy: many of them became unemployed after a few factories shut down. The signs of hope are few for the moment. from The Sunbeam over Carcaliu, edited by the Russian-Lipovans Community in Romania, 2007

by Andrei Ivanov