IAS student Marisa Petrich spent two weeks in Moscow with a group of student journalists.

Volokolamsk, Russia—On our first weekend in Russia, we did as the Russians do and got out of the city. Today we visited a working Orthodox monastery and had lunch at our new friend Oksana’s country house.

We met up with Oksana and her mother and a few of the other Russian students early in the morning and headed off to Joseph-Volokolamsk Monastery. Oksana’s mom began feeding us immediately—“piroshki” (delicious pastries filled with meat and vegetables), juice, and a sweet called “pastila” were waiting for us in the cars.

We drove, talked, listened to music (including The Types, a Russian rock band that sings in English), and even made a pit stop at a Russian war memorial. The park behind the memorial was full of Russian tanks and large-scale weapons, now used as giant big-toys for children (and the occasional UW Tacoma student).

The second we arrived at the monastery it was clear we were no longer in the city. We drove up through the trees to find a man crouched on the grass outside the walls, feeding doves out of his hands.

Before we entered, we covered our heads with scarves borrowed from Oksana and put on black, wrap-around skirts available for visiting women at the gates. Women must cover their heads and legs before entering a functioning church—though the rule doesn’t apply for churches that have been converted into museums.

The gold-topped domes and icons inside the sanctuary gave me a sense of Russia before the Soviet days—definitely a change from what I’ve seen in the middle of the city. Moscow has remnants of that era everywhere.

Afterward we went to Oksana’s “dacha.” Like many Russian families, she and her mother live in an apartment in the city during the week and keep a cottage in the country for weekends and holidays. The lunch we had there can only be described as epic.

We spent the afternoon singing karaoke in three languages, eating course after course of homemade Russian food prepared by Oksana’s mother, and laughing so hard my stomach hurt—but then, I suppose that might have been the massive amount of “piroshki” and borscht I ate.

Learn more about Marisa’s travels in Russia

Read all of Marisa’s Postcards dispatches.

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