From Comrat, our route continues south through the former Bessarabia to the border crossing at Galați, where we take a ferry across the Danube. Not far from there, the river flows into the Black Sea in a gigantic delta after its course through large parts of Eastern/Central Europe. This is our next destination.
On the way there, we make a stop at the Saon Monastery to find out if it is still possible to have lunch with the nuns. At the church I meet Sister Julia, who explains that there used to be such a thing. But if I want, I am welcome to come back the next day. Punctually at 12 o’clock we meet again at the gate and Julia takes me to the kitchen, where I am introduced to the nuns working there and the priest. Before dinner, I have the opportunity to speak with Sister Justina in the garden. Here a conversation develops “about God and the world”, which also becomes very personal. Justina tells about her personal transformation – her “new birth” – when she entered the convent exactly 23 years and one day ago at the age of only 17, her beginnings as well as difficulties in life as a nun and her way to “inner peace”. She also tells a lot about the history and the recent transformation of the place, which was still almost a ruin without electricity when she arrived in 1999. At that time, she had to fetch water from the river. At that time, people from the surrounding villages still came by horse on dirt roads to visit the priest. Within only two decades, the nuns have created a radiant idyll with two beautiful churches, agriculture such as wine growing and animal husbandry. The supply works almost autonomously. For the remaining needs they sell homemade honey, wine or Christian jewelry to visitors who now come here via an asphalted road. The proceeds are enough, and it even gives the opportunity to do more. For example, three months ago the nuns took in refugees from Ukraine. When asked what Justina wants for the future, she explains that she does not think about it. And further: The community in the convent lives in the here and now. The future is in “God’s hands,” and trust in Him gives Justina the inner peace that makes it possible to live in harmony with all other people. As a message I should take with me that everyone can find this peace – not only in the monastery.
After lunch, the nuns bid me a fond farewell and I leave for Tulcea, grateful for the beautiful experience in this secluded world and the deep insights into life there, where the boat for the trip to the Delta is already waiting.
Text & Photo: Christian Faludi