Recollections of Jerusalem: Interview with Anya Berezina Derrick
I had the pleasure of recently speaking with Anya Berezina Derrick about her new book, Recollections of Jerusalem, published by Holy Trinity Publications. Her book is a memoir and autobiography that opens up a wonderful world of history and spirituality from a unique perspective:
What inspired you to write Recollections of Jerusalem?
I wanted to leave a legacy to my sons and potential readers of Recollections of Jerusalem, of how a city permeated with sanctity had a tremendous influence on my development as a person.
What led you to live in Jerusalem?
After the Russian Revolution, my parents, being part of the White Army, fled to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where I was born. From there, at an early age, my mother and I went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where World War II caused us to be stranded.
How were you raised in the spirit of Russia?
Before the Revolution, Russia’s official religion was Orthodox Christianity. It was known as Holy Russia, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land in Palestine were standard devotional activities. In Jerusalem, I was raised in the spirit of Holy Russia by Russian Mission Monasteries, schools, pilgrim centers, and a Christian way of life, which all remained untouched by the Soviet Union’s atheism.
Who were major influences in your spiritual life?
Major influences on my spiritual life were the mission head, Fr. Anthony Sinkevich, and teachers such as Fr. Lazarus Moor, Abbess Tamara Romanov (born Grand Duchess in Holy Russia), and other similar teachers.
Which major world events did you witness in your lifetime?
World War II and the Arab-Israeli War were major events that made a strong impact on my life, that gave me a certain resilience of the spirit and belief in God’s will in one’s life.
What experiences in the Holy City of Jerusalem sustained your faith? How did these lead you back to the Holy Land with your husband and sons?
Orthodox Christian Liturgical Services in places touched by Christ’s presence on earth, such as the Holy Sepulcher, Hebrew prayers at the Wailing Wall on Saturdays, and Muslim prayers in the Mosque of Omar on Fridays, revealed Jerusalem to be the nucleus of salvation for the three “Abrahamic Faiths”: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. All three seemed to believe that God’s redemption will be in this Holy Land. Their cemeteries were side by side on the Mt. of Olives facing Jerusalem. The greatest difference between our faiths was Christ’s teaching of forgiveness and not the Biblical ‘’eye for an eye” practiced by both Muslims and Jews. My family and I wanted to bring peace to the Holy Land by helping through education at a time when Christians were fleeing the country.
How has Jerusalem changed since you lived there? What is your vision of a peaceful Jerusalem?
Today, Russian Orthodox pilgrims fill the narrow streets of Old Jerusalem, and one hears Russian spoken in other Holy places. Arabs, both Christians and Muslims, welcome them and benefit both economically and educationally throughout the West Bank. This gives hope for peace.
What do you hope the reader will come away with after reading your book?
Hopefully, the reader will understand my desire for Jerusalem to be an interfaith-international city, a model of human peaceful coexistence.
Find out more about Recollections of Jerusalem, by visiting Holy Trinity Publications.
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