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January 2012

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Pechory Monastery, Pskov Region, Russia, 2006. We were told on arrival not to address the monks directly, not to stare at them or attempt to take photographs of them under any circumstances. Along with a few local pilgrims, our small group had already been waiting for over an hour for a local translator to arrive at the entrance to the caves. She had been booked  by our tour operator, but didn’t turn up and our own tour guide did not have the authority to lead us through on her own. Unexpectedly one of the monks arrived and kindly offered to guide us without an official translator. Silently we shuffled along the sandy floor, being lead by the monk’s shape, silhouetted by the candle he was holding. It was dark, damp and cool and there seemed to be natural ventilation down there. Every several feet apart candles provided illumination accompanied by…