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Iconographer Ekaterina Titova: "Bulgaria is wonderful! Love it and cherish it!

Photo: facebook.com/RKIC.Sofia

The tangents between biology and ecclesiastical icon-painting are unknown and incomprehensible to those who are devoted to science. For Ekaterina Titova, a doctor of biological sciences accustomed to approaching everything through logic, religious devotion comes naturally, through music, because she was a singer in the choir of St Nicholas' Cathedral in the French city of Nice. At first, Katya sang without understanding the meaning of the songs. 

She began asking questions, but no one gave her answers. So her thirst for knowledge led her to enrol as a non-matriculating student at the St Genevieve Theological Seminary of the Russian Orthodox Church in Paris. Studying there opened her eyes to the path she wanted to take. At the end of her first year, the priest of the church where she continued to sing gave her his blessing to run a Sunday school. When she teaches the children the catechism, she paints with them at the end of each lesson. So, in addition to singing and teaching Sunday school, she began to study icon painting in Paris:

"Teaching made me realise how important it is to tell them about love, about God - says Ekaterina Titova in a special interview for Radio Bulgaria. - The children I teach are bilingual, some of Russian origin, some of Bulgarian. There are those with mixed Italian-French backgrounds. They navigate between several languages, speaking one at school and another at home, sometimes even juggling two or three languages at home. Sometimes it is very difficult for them to understand who they are. 

That's why I told them that regardless of nationality, the Orthodox faith is at the core of who they are. And that was very important to them - they had that light in their eyes and that was all they needed to hear. I told them that the Orthodox Church is their home in every corner of the world.

And now we arrive at the question: What sets a believer apart from a non-believer?

"A believer, in my view, embodies kindness and strives to perform acts of goodness," Katya responds. "They engage in prayer and possess a deeper understanding of their surroundings. In contrast, a person without faith may feel lost, navigating through life like in a maze without finding an exit. A believer possesses clarity regarding their purpose in life and what awaits them beyond, guiding their actions and decisions. We are all beckoned towards truth; it's as if God implants this seed of truth within each of us, connecting us to Him. I believe that everyone seeks truth, and ultimately, God represents the ultimate truth."

After completing her studies at the seminary in Paris, Katya honed her artistic skills through internships at prestigious institutions such as the Academy of Classical Arts in Florence, Italy, and the Academy of Crafts in Moscow, Russia.

While studying she realised that to paint well, an artist needs to relax and clear their mind. 

The icon painter, on the other hand, has to gather a huge amount of materials around him and pray, and then transfer it all to the drawing board. 

Ekaterina Titova's icons are filled with golden light, a symbol of holiness. The colours of the images are soft pastels, because they are meant to inspire prayer. "Vanity is always bright. In icons, the images should be serene, this is my personal view, that's what my heart tells me," says Katya. As well as icons, she also paints scarves, fans and umbrellas.

When she met her husband, Katya lived in Germany and Austria, where she was married by Father Vladimir Tishchuk, the current Primate of the Russian Church in Sofia. It was through Father Tishchuk that she came to Bulgaria and held her exhibition at the Russian Cultural Institute. 

In the meantime she visited Veliko Tarnovo and the Rila Monastery, both of which literally amazed her with their spirituality:

"I was in Veliko Tarnovo, the city was amazing, there is such a huge cultural layer. I felt so much joy there. It is the spiritual heart of Bulgaria and I was proud for you to have such a place. It's better than Switzerland, there's such a spirit, just walking down the streets, it's everywhere! 

The Rila Monastery was also an amazing spiritual experience. It was the first monastery we visited in Bulgaria. Everything there is harmonious and made with love for God - temples, buildings. In the central museum our hearts stopped. Nowhere else in Austria or Germany, or in some of the most breathtaking museums in Europe, have we seen such beauty. And I really believe that. This is a great heritage. Bulgaria is what we saw there. I think it's such a treasure trove of information. The visit was very, very gratifying. We should be proud of this treasure of culture and history and keep it and preserve it.

Let's pray to God that somehow things can be put right and arranged in such a way that faith can flourish. It's crucial. I believe that faith is what holds our nation together. Without it, we can easily drift apart, but with faith, we're united with God, which is vital.

At the end of our conversation, Ekaterina Titova wished Bulgarians to live in Christ and above all to remember God, their faith and their history. "It is so rich. You have a beautiful country - love it and cherish it".

Photos: Darina Grigorova, facebook.com/RKIC.Sofia, podvorie-sofia.bg, icon-blagovest.com
Translated and posted by Elizabeth Radkova

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