My acquaintance with Sergey occurred in the strange stage of my life. Now it is quite complicated to answer what has affected on my decision to come to Tsipovo on the way to home.
It is a Moldovan village on the slope of river Dniester. This village is known all over the world, because two centuries ago the big rocky city with complex internal infrastructure and unique local color existed there. Now the open air museum is placed in that ancient city and monastery. There are carving rocks by specific, not natural way, antique stairs, leading down to Dniester, and rare icon-lamps in the wide crevices- this is a single prompt of the greatness of the past.
I am going down and get to the quite large square, one side it is fenced, another side – a crag, in which five centuries ago Orthodox Church was carved. The man with dark hair and very deep gaze to inside of my soul comes to meet me. He greets me. He is trying to realize who I am. Through some moments he demonstrates his dwelling: two small rooms, in which past and present coexists. The interior items differ from old icons, drawing two hundred years ago, to the modern radio and lamp. Armory and supporting guard point was earlier on that place, so Sergey – the hero of my story, like a guard, defending that place from oblivion of his presence.
The history of relationship of Sergey with this place was began fifteen years ago, when he was an young man of eighteen years old, decided with his companion to go to a little journey on the Nord of Moldova. Their way was from Chisinau, through Old Orhei, to Tsipovo. It took two days and to the end of the second day, when they got to Tsipovo, the first time they saw all power and majesty this place, he caught his breath. He had lived in caves and cells for two weeks, after he left it, but he always came back to that point, because Tsipovo was in his heart and this place is still in it after fifteen years. On the moment of our acquaintance, he lived in cell constantly, and his daily routine was consisted of circumvention of the territory, meditation, reading books, prayers, conversations with Helen (his girlfriend), he also survived among snakes, spiders, bats and different sounds in the rocks.
Quit everything, leave and be absolutely happy in this condition. What is it? Is it madness or the way to yourself? I suppose that everyone could interpret this act at his own discretion. What about me: need have courage and energy to succumb own nature, listen to the inner voice and move on own way, ignoring social norms, rules and abutments.
Somehow, it happened that normal life was never meaningful for me. Let the normal people live their normal life. At the age of 12, I realized that I’m not a normal person. I differ. I’m abnormal, but in a good meaning. Exist deranged people who really can’t live in this society, and so abnormal people who are better than normal. For some reason it seemed to me that I am better than ordinary people. Now I’m not talking about myself as well. “Walking in the same clothes, get an equally haircut, It’s enough without me. Then I discovered appropriate meaning: when I was a child it called “non-mainstreamer”. I grew older, and found the word “non-conformist.” Well, why not? There was always such a category of people. Our society is separate, and we are not there, we live our own lives. Myself feels so much easier by my own. I meet people with whom we can find a common language, we understand each other, and I don’t need friendship with everyone. I don’t bother people, and they don’t disturb me. Each of us should do his own thing.
I came here by foot from Orhei. Before Orhei by car, and the car has gone straight to Tipovo, taking away other tourists. We said: “We do not have to go straight to Tsypovo, we’re going to Orhei.” In Orhei, because from the city of 5 kilometers along the bank of Reut there is one rock, it is very interesting. A stone block, a geometrically regular triangle, exactly in the center in it there is a cave. You go into this cave, and it is perfectly smooth from all sides, this is also something pagan. We needed to get there. I got there, stayed there for one night, and the next day, in the morning, we started walking on foot, and stones, some small rocks, started out. We came here (in Tsypovo) before sunset. Tired, happy, at sunset for the first time I saw this 180-meter depth, height. It just took me. I liked it very much. The next two weeks I had constant detours of the territory: waterfalls, met interesting people who lived here.
I knew that here I would find some friends from Chisinau. There was a company “Pinocchio”, these are intellectuals, scribes, they were engaged in second-hand books. At that time, intellectuals came here, and left, and there were all kinds of rare editions, encyclopedias, whole libraries. There was a lot of interesting, rare and expensive literature. Everything passed through them. I was interested to communicate with them. They came here to rest from the beginning of the 90s, but I was still a little, and then, when I became an adult, independent, I myself came here.
Before 6 years old I was adorable reading of fairy tales. In my childhood, it was my favorite occupation – to look at books, I had a large stack of children’s books, I just watched pictures. There were postcards, photos, which I was interested. I read fairy tales and I loved listening it from others. It developed fantasy, and it seemed to me how great that was.
At the age of 6 I have already learned to read, and began to read by myself. In 6 years, this is just the beginning of the 90s, when various sectarians began to come, Baptists and the first children’s Bible came into my hands. It included very beautiful pictures. I began to view these pictures, then I realized that it was attractive to read. At 6 years old I read the Bible for the first time. I did not ask myself what God is, what faith is. At the age of 12 I deliberately began to read the adult Bible, I already understood something. Then, at 15-18 some first problems started, and you start to ask yourself “why?”. And it so happened that he came to the conclusion that, in reality in this life … what is life? Life is vanity of vanities. At the age of 18 there was such a serious problem, I thought, and for myself I realized that in all this life, it only seems that there can be some problems. This was said by the wisest King Solomon – all the vanities of vanities. The way it is. There is no difference for a man – he is rich, poor, healthy, sick. Everything ends the same.
After the Bible began to help books on philosophy, in all scientific disciplines of the book, which fell into my hands – psychiatry, medicine. You ask yourself: “Who are you? Who are the other people? “. In parallel with this, every six months, a year, you read the Bible, and you start to discover in yourself some other horizons. There are questions for which science has no answer. The Bible has the answer to every question. The main thing is to take it in yourself. To explain this to someone is useless, because it either opens from birth, and nothing needs to be explained, this is faith, or if a person does not understand this, no matter how much he tries to explain, everything will be useless. For me, there is God, it’s actually so. It’s not some grandfather in the sky with a beard that beats with a stick for sin. This is something that a person could not appreciate, but it is. It works in me, it helps me.
This place has always been fenced from the external world. For the millennial history of this monastery, from IX till now, it was those people who came here who simply did not need the world. And anyway, what do mean words “monastery” and “monks”? This is the departure from the world: “we are not of this world.” There is a world where ordinary, normal people live by their rules. Someone is more stupid, someone is smarter. And there are other people who understand that the world is not the most important, and they do not need it. They go somewhere – in monasteries, for example. I’m not in a monastery yet, but I’m also not of this world. I realized that long ago.
On an uninhabited island, if there was only me alone, I would not be bored there either, and I would not worry about it at all. It is quite acceptable for me, in due course, in a couple of years, if I find it necessary, I can stay in the monastery – there every day will look like one to another. For me, just as it is permissible, someday, at the age of 50, to go some- where to the recluses. It would be perfectly permissible for me to be in solitary confinement. I, books, walls and nothing more. It’s normal for me. For me, it would be permissible to sit in a psychiatric hospital, in a solitary ward. When I am alone, my head is never silent.
Since the morning I wake up, and there are some thoughts. Even when you try to stop them, you still say something … it’s impossible to stop this flow. It does not always happen that from outsiders I hear something smarter than I could have said to myself, that’s why it’s more interesting for me to talk to myself. This is not the desire for solitude – I was born this way. How much I remember myself – in the kindergarten: the children play together, they have a common game, and it has always been more interesting for me to be in my corner, play with my toys and everything, I did not need anyone. The school was the same. I never needed to have many friends. There were a couple of people with whom I was interested – the rest is not necessary.
Could this cave in the 15th century have been carved specially so that now I come here and stay here? And who knows what drives us, and what determines what will happen next. No one knows. Maybe I was born especially to come to this place and stay here. And other people came here, and they could not. Maybe it’s a fairytale. I just do not think about it. As long as I can be here, I’ll be here. [Text by Sergey H]
About Mikhail Kalarashan
Documentary photographer, based in Chis- inau, Moldova. Works in street photography, land- scapes and portrait. I was born on July 27, 1993 in Rybnitsa, Transnistria. In 2000 I was admitted to middle school No. 10 in Rybnitsa, Transnistria. In 2009 I passed into the Russian theoretical lyceum “A.S. Pushkin” in Rezina, Moldova. In 2012 I entered on psychological faculty in ULIM. In 2015 I successfully defended thesis on clinical psychology on the subject “The life quality of persons with diagnosis diabetes mellitus of the II type”. In 2015 I have continued the master course on clinical psychology in the same university. In 2017 I entered the Academy of Photojournalism and Documentary Photography “Fotografika” in St. Petersburg, Russia. Since the fall of 2017, she has been working on a permanent basis with the Moldovan magazine “Oameni și Kilometri” as a photographer and journalist. Since 2018, he has been work- ing on a long-term documentary project about the Ukrainian Carpathians. [Official Website]
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