The Church of Resurrection in Karabanovo village (Kostroma oblast), built in 1833, experienced both physical and spiritual destruction in Soviet times, when it was turned into a machinery service station and a fertilizer depot, and was fully re-established under the guidance of a priest by the name of George Edelstein.
George is a rather interesting person. A well-known dissident, candidate of Philological Sciences and father of Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, a speaker of the Israeli Knesset, he is surrounded by atmosphere which is best described as magic realism: the more you peer, the more surprising past and present events unfold in front of you. At the same time, nothing strange is happening for the 87-year-old archpriest, his friends and congregation — as it is their world.
It is that more interesting how the “Edelstein’s world” coexists with the outer world in good harmony: I was lucky enough to chat with a political scientist, an art restorer, a photographer and a Lithuanian politician during my stays at the archpriest’s house; George himself visits Israel annually to enjoy the top-level medicine care and he is very much fond of the latest art fairs happening in Europe. This mix presents itself very naturally, so you do realise the remarkability of it only when leaving the village.
Starting from 1979, the year that he was ordained as a priest, George has been restoring old churches in Russian province. His friends told me that he finds something common yet different with every person he talks with and „people come for God, but stay for Edelstein“.
When I called him and told that I’m an aspiring photographer willing to get to know him, he made it clear: an Orthodox priest is not the person to ask a permission to talk, one can just come if they want to.
He is ready to discuss every topic ranging from religion to his life’s details. „For me, every Christian is important: Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox“ he says. And, at once, „I might be a bad Christian… The Book says: ‘Love your enemies’, but I downright do not love my enemies. I wouldn’t like my friends and fellows to love them, too“.
One day, when we were walking to the church, a man awaited George in a bright orange „Moskvitch“ car.
The driver, Sergey, suffered from a medical malpractice: in 1990 he was appointed a lumbar puncture which was then carried inaccurately; he hasn’t been able to walk on his own ever since. He visits George since 1992 on a regular basis to receive a blessing.
-Don’t get out of the car“ joked George approaching the orange Moskvitch.
-Bless me, father“ asked Sergey.
The Church of the Resurrection is with no doubt the main waypoint of the village — white in contrast with the grey or green background (depending on the season), with golden domes and spire, it immediately draws your attention.
Fir trees to the sides of the footpath to the church grow weak and yellow. During the Soviet era the church was simultaneously a tractor station and a fertilizer storage. Chemicals have soaked into the ground beneath the building, and during the first years of operation whitewash on the walls peeled off heavily under the influence of ammonia vapors. Now they affect the plants near the church.
According to George, the Church of the Resurrection was suited to the needs of communist economy due to the actions of a Karabanovo native, Pavel Fedorovich Fedorov, who was the chairman of a local kolkhoz called „Red Army“. He addressed higher ranking authorities and was given verbal admission to use the church as an MTS (machine tractor station).
His son Boris, „a daredevil and a drinker“ who took a revolutionary surname Volin (a derivative from [vol’ya], ‘will’ in Russian), as told by George, decided to remedy his father’s deeds and made the effort to get a permit for re-construction of the religious site in 1990.
Boris didn’t want George to give a memorial service for him sober, and often cited a popular song: „We were born with wine, with wine we will die, with wine they will bury us and with a drunk priest, so you too don’t bury me sober, take a drink“. Now Boris Volin lies at the burial ground of the church near his father Fedor, separated by a metal grill.
Father George is respected among locals not only because of his attitude toward the parish, but also for his contribution to the community. Apart from restoring the Church of the Resurrection he helped to acquire endowments for a House of Mercy in Ivanovskaya village 5 kilometers from Karabanovo. A former temporary accommodation facility, from 2018 it admits people with social and health problems.
Besides, George helped organize the restoration of the roof of a local school and promoted the construction of a chapel near a Soviet-era House of Culture. The slogan „Power to the soviets, land to the peasants, mills and factories to the workers“ still can be read on the remains of the mosaic on the building.