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Eastern Europe: accentuate the positive

29 December 2009


From Mrs Elo Allik-Schunemann

Sir, — In your beautiful, jolly Christmas issue, the last thing I wanted to read was more bashing of Eastern Europe. It has been demonised so much in all the papers since 2004, and I am surprised that Jonathan Luxmoore (Comment) has gone along with this trend.

There is no such thing as many countries in one pot, such as all Eastern European countries in one group of weird, greedy, copying-of- the-West, materialistic, uncool, permanently out-of-fashion countries. These are incredible countries that want to retain their dignity and popularity, too, and they are quite different from each other, and very beautiful. The expectations with which these countries have been burdened are enormous, and they have barely been given time.

My mother says that her St John’s Lutheran Church, in the centre of Tallinn, Estonia, is full of people every Sunday, and the priest is incredibly learned and interesting. My father goes to the Estonian Orthodox church in a village, people come from far and near to attend, and they all eat together afterwards because they haven’t had enough of each other.

My husband, Bernhard, one of the Church of England’s priests, says that one of the greatest reli-gious experiences he has ever had was in Estonia, in Puhtitsa Russian Orthodox Monastery and Convent, swimming in its holy spring alongside other pilgrims, and not being allowed to dry himself after­wards because the water was that holy.

No faith has disappeared from those countries: people who always had it have it still, and the young who had the faith because of the euphoria of the fall of Communism are now busy building up the economy, not being “materialistic”.

St Stephen’s Vicarage
111 College Road
London SE21 7HN

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