A Festival of St.Elisabeth Convent in Review: Heart to Heart Festival - Berlin 2017

Why does St. Elisabeth Convent organize festivals? What are they like and what is their influence on the visitors? Let’s deal with all these questions based on the example of the From Heart To Heart Festival that took place in Berlin on September 21-24.

The Russian House in Berlin, where the Festival was held, provided immense support to our Convent. This event was first organised in the capital of Germany last year. Its programme turned out to be of interest to people who belong to various generations and cultures. Due to this fact, From Heart To Heart Festival was invited to the Russian House again this autumn.

One of the main goals of the festival team is to make people aware of the beauty of Orthodox culture. We tried to use performances, presentations, and concerts to bring some joy of human interaction to our foreign friends, to fill the meetings we had in this remote land with warmth and care, so that the name of our From Heart To Heart Festival would not remain a mere declaration but would become a living experience of every one of our guests.

Each of the four days of the Festival was overflowing with fascinating events and meetings. The daily schedule consisted of a main event for general public and several smaller ones for fewer visitors. The guests mentioned the fact that they could always find the event that suited their individual interests in their testimonials. Many of our visitors came to the Festival again and again.

We were pleased and honoured to greet Dzianis Sidarenka, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to the Federative Republic of Germany, with his spouse; Alexei Barbuk, an adviser of the Embassy; representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia; staff of the Russian and the Belarusian embassies.

What Was Special About The Festival This Time?

- The concert of the Monastic Choir of St. Elisabeth Convent, as usual, took a whole lot more time than previously anticipated. The foyer of the Russian House was packed with listeners.

- The Little Prince, a play staged by Joy Inclusive Theatre, was performed in Western Europe for the first time. The company performed the play in Cottbus and Berlin. The story based on the eponymous novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was staged in Russian by the small team of mentally and physically challenged children from several boarding homes of Minsk.

Alexander Zhdanovich, the permanent leader of the theatre, was the director and stage director of the play, and he wrote the script for it, too. The audience appreciated the interpretation of this play into German. The children from the boarding home enjoyed warm welcome, which, coupled with absence of vacant seats, was their greatest reward.

- The usual workshop sessions on icon painting and making stone icons were complemented by one-on-one tutoring, which the visitors could sign up for. A four hour long workshop session under the guidance of professional icon painters allowed the students to learn the nuances and techniques in greater detail than during the general presentation, and to make a complete work of art with their own hands.

During the sessions on making stone icons, the participants learned to make landscape pictures, and during tempera icon painting sessions, they painted biblical animals on the boards we had prepared in advance. People could register for participation in these workshop sessions online or during their visit to the festival, and we were surprised to see how many people turned up.

- A theatrical show Traditional Belarusian Dress, which combined a lecture on the history of the dress, elements of a folk holiday and a fashion show of secular clothes made in Ella sewing workshop of St. Elisabeth Convent, was an unexpected event. It was intended to remind of the traditions of the national dress of Belarus, preserved and continued in modern fashions created by designers of our Convent. The audience in Berlin was really keen to see the collection of clothes made in the Convent. Many of the viewers went on to buy the items after the show.

- There was a phyto café open daily for all visitors. It offered pastry, sweets, and aromatic herbal teas brewed according to old recipes.

- The visitors could also watch films produced by the Studio in honour of St John the Warrior (St. Elisabeth Convent), explore photo exhibitions and presentations about the current life of St. Elisabeth Convent, its history and social outreach projects. The information about the construction going on in the Convent, about the social projects currently underway, about the holidays and day-to-day life of the Convent never failed to cause interest of many listeners.

Each event was accompanied by several small video films and a conversation during which the visitors were able to ask their questions. The sisters of St. Elisabeth Convent, having helped many people in difficult life situations, people with disabilities, and the elderly, have accumulated a formidable wealth of practical knowledge and spiritual experience, and they were happy to share it with the audiences.

- The Land of Childhood met its young friends with joy. The special edutainment we had prepared for children and their parents created the atmosphere of a warm family holiday. The characters of Batleika Folk Puppet Theatre and moving characters of the For The Little Ones cartoon series offered a variety of fairy tales to the little guests.

- We had demonstrated a Belarusian hut to the Berliners last year but this time, there were several workshop session that carried on the topic of the Belarusian costume: painting wooden gifts (plywood figurines of children wearing Belarusian clothes), weaving belts using a special device, and a straw-plaiting seminar.


It is hard to tell yet how successful the festival in Berlin was , given that the majority of the audience were benevolent Russian-speaking Orthodox parishioners. The Festival for them is an opportunity to return to their homeland, albeit virtually.

Even during the preparation stage for the From Heart To Heart Festival in Berlin, we invested a lot of effort to spread the word about the event among the general public and Christians who belong to heterodox congregations. We took into account our previous experiences and were led by the desire to make this event as interactive and easy to understand for an average visitor as possible. Thanks to the fact that all events held within the frameworks of the festival were interpreted into German, German speakers were also able to enjoy it and expressed their appreciation.

The skill of icon painters, the purity of Orthodox chants performed by the Monastic Choir, books and films produced by the video studio of St. Elisabeth Convent, workshop sessions on folk crafts – all these events have always been an encounter with the beauty of Orthodox culture, traditions of family life, and a history of the Belarusian nation.

We can definitely say that From Heart To Heart Festival is becoming one of memorable events in the life of the city. More than 3,000 people visited the Russian House during the four days of the festival. Many of them shared their impressions via our Book of Reviews.

The sisters of St. Elisabeth Convent would like to thank all their friends and guests of the Festival for their warm welcome, attention, and support.

Our Festival team hopes to meet their friends in Berlin in the summer of 2018. We are looking forward to meeting you next year!

October 5, 2017

St. Elisabeth Convent