The bells of the old church rang solemnly to herald the start of the Holly Week. The old believers prepare for a week of faith as they did for hundreds of years. Men with long beards and untucked shirts, women with long skirts and scarves walk in silence to attend the mass. ‘I have no sins’ said Marfa smiling when her daughter asks why she doesn’t go to church like Baba Catya and Baba Dunya. It’s only Monday, thought Irina tired of weeks of boiled potatoes, dry fish and rye bread. She can wait a few more days for sure, but on Thursday the smell of Easter pastries in her mother’s kitchen will make waiting unbearable. Marfa examines the eggs with forensic precision. There must be no cracks, not even a fissure or else the painted eggs will not come out perfect. But it is the paska, the Easter bread that women will discuss on the bench for days. Marfa will have to knead the dough on the warm lejanka every few hours, day and night. Irina watches her mother prepare the cocoa and walnut filling, hoping for enough cocoa left over. There always is, Marfa smiles at Irina, her little nose barely above the tabletop. The church bells finally ring cheerfully on Easter Sunday. There are three people for the family lunch this year, but the table is set for four. ‘I wish your brother was here’ whispers Marfa with a big sigh. Irina was missing her brother too, but didn’t understand her mother’s heartache until years later when she became a mother herself.
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