Skip to main content

Flowers in the Metro

Russians have special traditions involving the buying and giving of flowers for friends and loved-ones. Students and friends here have explained to me multiple times that you one can only purchase and present odd numbers of flowers on special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Even flower shop owners will refuse to sell you an even number of flower stems in a bouquet - it's a very exact and delicate science here.  Even though I'd heard explanations and reasons before, they remained very nebulous and obtuse to me.  "You just don't do it."    

On Tuesday, the 30th of March, one day after the tragic metro explosions that shook the city, I finally grasped the full sense of those traditions.  As we boarded our metro wagon, I was alarmed to see passenger after passenger holding two flowers.  Young people had pairs of red carnations; older people had sets of two roses.  I have never in my experience in Russia thus far seen even numbers of flowers in the hands of Russian people, it is such social taboo; honestly, it was a bit unnerving.  These passengers, like Dan and myself, were traveling to the two metro locations which had been hit the day previous, to mourn with the city after the tragedy the day previous.  Memorials had been constructed at each metro location and near them, shrines of flowers, icons, candles, and mourners gathered to grieve together.  Even numbers of flowers are for these kinds of occasions:  when the unthinkable and unconceivable happen, when innocent lives are ended abruptly, when death comes unexpectedly and tragically.  I will never forget this poignant and living explanation. 

When we arrived at the first memorial, we bought our first ever (and hopefully last) pair of flowers to lay on the memorial.  The atmosphere was uncontrollably emotional.  We mourned with the city over these losses, unable to stop the tears, and unable to find consolation.

"At this place on the 29th of March 2010 on the wagon of the metro, a terrorist act occurred, resulting in the death of people. In this station there will be a memorial plaque."

Tragedy like this is alive and present in the hearts and minds of every person braving their daily commute on this metro which was just a week ago necessary even mundane, but now suddenly terrifying and anything but commonplace.  There was, one week ago, an unspoken social norm for riding the metro never to look at other passengers.  One could gaze blankly at advertisements, read one's book, or play games on one's cell phones, but looking at other people riding along was unacceptable.  But now, and who knows for how long, that social norm has been swallowed by fear.  Eyes of passengers flit from face to face, looking, wondering, fearing with whom one may be sharing a wagon.  Fear has descended over the city, it's dark grasp almost tangible over people here.  Please pray for us and for this city.

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
  and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
  yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
  and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
 My heart faints within me!


Popular posts from this blog

Spiritual Tourism 101

Today Anna and I joined our visiting friends from Eastern Washington on a trip to Christ the Savior Cathedral downtown. Often, when we host visitors, we try to resist the temptation to tell them everything we think we know about the people and places around them. From our own experience, we've learned that one of the greatest joys of travel involves coming into contact with a new culture, new ideas, and new traditions, and learning about those things first hand from the people who live there - that is what really creates a lasting impression and connection with any new place and people. 
We've created a spiritual tourism guide for Moscow which embraces this concept based on the Field Observation Process (FOP) featuring first hand interaction with the places and traditions of Russia, all within the context of building new friendships with the people that live here. The first trip, Spiritual Tourism 101, involves two of Russia's most spiritual locations: Christ the Savior Cat…


We saw him coming from about 10 yards away, uncontrolled lunges throwing him across the sidewalk, then small steps sending him stumbling into fence and icy overgrowth as we approached, breathing heavy, just having joked about the early winter and its influence on our running speed. “Careful,” I whispered, probably just as much to myself as my two companions. I’d forgotten it was a holiday weekend, or as most Russians joke, just another excuse to drink. The streets' stillness and relative emptiness seemed even more unusual than what we experience most early Saturday mornings and this guy’s drunken gait immediately pushed into my mind the Embassy’s weekend emergency message: “In the past, some rallies celebrating National Unity Day have been marred by violence, including targeting of non-ethnic Russians. In the last week, the U.S. Embassy has received two reports of American citizens being assaulted in what appear to be acts of anti-western/American sentiment.” Probably harmless, I …

Winter Bible Conference 2017

Peter was hunched up against the window of the high-speed train to Saint Petersburg, trying desperately to see how the train rolled along the rails when we got the message: "the health department has closed the location for the conference, please pray."
Many of the 115 students and staff from 17 cities across Russia were already en route, like us, to our annual Winter Bible Conference when this unexpected news hit. We arrived in St. Pete, shaking the softly falling snow from our luggage and hats, not fully knowing what to think or expect for this year's conference. However, while we were flying across Russia's rails, praying for help and provision, staff in St. Pete had hit the ground searching for a new location to fit our demographic and budget - not an easy task. In the end, we got our answer and miraculously nobody was lost in the shuffle.

The opening meeting emerged from non-stop logistical, physical, and relational chaos and met an audience surprisingly humble…