Friday, May 17, 2013



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I swear, the air smelled like roses. In December! The puddles and the rain didn't matter. The huge bus carrying us from the train station squeezed ponderously through the narrow streets with the cars parked by twos or threes on each side. Instead of watching the street, the driver looked at us, shouting something in Italian, singing and gesturing effusively. One thing about Italy was consistent: my mouth hung open all through my stay there.
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The time in Italy was one of the most significant periods in my life. What astonished me the most was that God's Grace was just there, waiting for me as soon as I looked for it, even without me knowing what I was looking for. Italy's beauty was also there, independent of anyone's thinking or anticipation. It burst forward, radiant and triumphant.   
A woman on the sidewalk crossed herself passing the church. That shocked me. Here faith in God wasn't hidden or sneered at. It was normal, even important part of life here, to believe. For me it was still very new. An acquaintance introduced me to an Italian young man. During our date I told him about my recent spiritual experiences. In the beginning of our meeting he flirted and was behaving seductively. At the end, he only thoughtfully kissed my hands.
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From the time when I first felt God's Grace and love for me, praying was the only thing that alleviated the cultural shock and loneliness. We went to  Vatican for a Christmas mass (not that Christmas or Vatican meant anything to us then, beyond an interesting cultural phenomena). As the service progressed though, I felt more and more caught up in prayer. My heart (and my eyes) were overflowing. The feeling that  came over me  was of the most tender love and forgiveness.
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We settled in a small town close to Rome, called Ladispoli. The apartment where we lived was right on the side of the sea. It was winter: the salty, cold air of the Mediterranean cleaned the cub-webs from my mind and made me long for  adventures. 
 Everything I learned to cherish from the books or studies was right there in front of me in a little traveling that we could afford in Italy.
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                                                 bearded_slave003.jpg (148×299)   Michelangelo's Slaves in the museum in Florence knocked me out of my misery and stirred my mind to higher aspirations. The St. Marco's Piazza in Venice               images (284×178)      was a beautiful antidote to the marble-clad heavy architecture of the Soviet era. It looked like a concoction made from egg-whites and sugar, instead of the stone. The Russian immigrants walked around, sighing: "Wow, just like in Venice!" We couldn't believe that we were really there.   

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