After the ceremony people gather in a neighbouring hall to meet one another, talk and taste all the good things they brought. A prayer and a blessing are being said, and than everyone is looking for a place to sit. I look for a place next to the priest and ask him about the parish. „It was not easy. We have been knocking at many doors until we found this crypt. God helped us to be received here free of charge. For the moment we can use this space every two weeks taking turns with an Italian community. As every Orthodox parish abroad, we have a canonical dependence of a Bishopric. Ours is in Paris and our Bishop is named Iosif Popa.

At our opening ceremony, one year ago, we had here as a guest the Vice-Bishop Siluan. We started with only 40-50 parishioner and the number keeps on growing“, he says obviously proud. He is open, friendly and very willing to speak. I tell him that maybe with God’s help I will manage to publish this story in a Romanian magazine „Formula As“, “. Than he gets very interested and gives me his whole attention. „Really ? „Formula As“ ? he asks surprised, „I read it on the Internet, also „Dilema“ and „22-ul“, I want to know as much as possible. Please note something very important: in our parish we rely very much on young people, at least three quarters of them have university degrees, Zurich is a university centre internationally famous and it attracts a lot of PhD. students. I think we have here around twelve of them. They study mathematics, physics or chemistry. We also have many young couples. In the last six months we had seven baptisms, two weeks from now I will have another, and again one in January. This is sometimes rare even in Romania“ he says enthusiastically. „You know? This is the only Romanian parish in the German speaking part of Switzerland; there are two more in Geneva, one in Lausane, one in Sion and another in Lugano. We have a parish council of lay people, it is led by an architect who left Romania 38 years ago and is very active. After the winter season we will start seriously to look for a piece of land and build a church of our own, one made of wood like in Maramures, in the North of Romania. There is a lot to do. I also started to create a parish library, each time I travel to Romania I bring new books, anyone can borrow. I have difficulties with my visa status here. Switzerland is a restrictive country. For the moment I have a study permit. In time, I hope to obtain from the authorities my confirmation as a religious worker, once recognised, I will enjoy a very important status“. I learn further that the priest’s wife, the modest lady singing in the church, has a PhD. in pharmacy from Nancy, France, and is working as scientific researcher at the University.

Before I leave, I take a last look. I see a happy and noisy crowd where, indeed, young people are predominant. Each of them has his or her story. Each of them is a piece in a puzzle that will never be recomposed in its initial form. Each of them, suspended between „here“ and „there“, is building up to the best of his abilities his slice of happiness, fulfilment and connection to a spiritual world. May God Help !

Alina Mondini, Zürich

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