domed Orthodox churches are a dime a dozen in Russia—every city you visit has one, or
eight, and if you visit, typically an elderly woman inside will greet you and explain why
this church and the religious icons inside are particularly important in Russian history. It
is easy to grow weary of visiting yet another church in yet another Russian city. But then
you recall how the Soviets wiped out religion—and you quickly get a warm feeling, seeing
so many Orthodox believers appreciating what they have and are able to do today. Here in
Ishim the bright blue onion domes, bathed in sun, look perfect in front of the snowy white
“Come here.” Tatiana walks us over to the statue of a woman in the church courtyard.
“Her name is Praskovia Lupolova.”
The figure has a scarf wrapped around her head. She's bundled in a coat, wearing a long
skirt. One foot is in front of the other, as if she's walking. And she's carrying a walking
“Her family was sent here to Siberia,” Tatiana says. “She could see how much her father
was suffering. So she decided she would walk to St. Petersburg. Alone, as a young girl. She
could have died. In fact, she fell somewhere and nearly drowned.”
Hearing this woman's story is making me feel very weak for feeling so cold at the mo-
ment. I am taking notes as Tatiana speaks, but the cold has frozen the ink in my pen, and
my notes grow more and more faint.
“Praskovia walked for more than a year. When she finally reached St. Petersburg, she
was received by the czar. He was impressed by her deed, and allowed her family to return
to their homeland in Europe—what is now Ukraine. She vowed that if the czar saved her
father, she would enter a convent, which she did. She died in that monastery in 1825. Her
story amazed Russia.”
There's an engraving beneath the statue: “To Praskovia Lupolova, who showed the
world the deed of a daughter's love. Ishim—St. Petersburg, 1803-1804.”
Tatiana stands next to that statue with a visible sense of pride.
“Unfortunately the Soviet authorities did away with religion—and with Praskovia's
“The story was banned?”
“It wasn't good to talk about people who did heroic things that were inspired by reli-
gion,” Sergei adds.
Tatiana has family roots going back generations in Siberia. And she is proud of that. She
goes it alone these days—her husband died of cancer in 2000. She says she has a toughness