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Yes, I came to our Ascension Convent as an eight-year-old girl.

I knew three prayers in Russian pretty well already: .

Grandmother often visited the Convent on Eleon, and always brought gallons of olive oil for their icon lamps as a gift. Matushka tried to persuade my grandmother: “Leave her for a little while, and then we’ll see.

I remember when my grandmother and I first arrived, they gave me a Russian grammar book and a gray cassock, being the littlest girl. She has everything she needs here, she is studying Arabic and Russian…” I remember that my 80-year-old grandmother came to fetch me two more times.

Ilia was killed at the front in Jordan when he was 23 years old.

Our father was in the military, and in 1956, my grandmother had to go see him in Kuwait, where he was posted at the time.

Of course, my father also came to retrieve me, but Matushka Tamara would implore him: “Elena (that was my lay name) already sings on our kliros, she knows music, she learned to sew…” I had the widest variety of obediences: I sang, I made candles, I knitted prayer ropes, I helped in the iconography studio.

—Everyone told me that as children, girls should play with dolls, and not rush to be a nun.Russian nuns from the Mount of Olives frequently stayed at our house when they would visit Bethlehem on big holidays.Nun Tatyana, whom my brother Ilia and I called our “Russian grandmother” would visit.I showed it to her, and pleadingly, but with a note of cunning, said: “Here you go, even my doll Tatiana has already been tonsured, but I’m still waiting…” “Ama,” looking at the doll garbed in black, only smiled, then called Sister Susanna, who was the tailor to all the nuns, and asked her to sew me a white monastic headcovering called the : “Let’s begin with this…” Since my childhood I came to love everything Russian, and even “God’s kasha” and various borshches.Though an Arab by nationality, in my consciousness I always felt Russian.

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