Last words from Riana Scheep­ers

Riana Scheep­ers not only has good prospects for 2017, but for the next seven years too! She ex­plains why...

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aA long-held dream of mine re­cently came true: a trip to Rus­sia. My ini­tial dream about this mighty coun­try was a teenage fan­tasy, ro­man­tic and com­pletely un­re­al­is­tic. In my mind’s eye, I was on a train jour­ney across Rus­sia’s end­less steppes. I was svelte and stun­ning with high, Slavic cheek­bones. To match my ex­otic ap­pear­ance, I had long red nails, an el­e­gant cig­a­rette holder (though I don’t smoke), and a hat with black Chan­tilly lace cast­ing a shadow of mys­tery over my eyes. I was tragic and beau­ti­ful, just like Tol­stoy’s un­for­get­table hero­ine, Anna Karen­ina. Dur­ing this jour­ney through the snow I was read­ing Anna Ach­ma­towa’s po­etry, star­ing melan­choli­cally out at the win­ter land­scape. There wasn’t a hand­some Rus­sian in this flight of fancy, be­cause as a teenager I had the stereo­typ­i­cal idea that all Rus­sian men were brutes and vil­lains.

My real jour­ney was any­thing but tragic. I trav­elled by boat from Moscow to St. Peters­burg, stop­ping off at all the small vil­lages along the banks of the Volga. It cer­tainly wasn’t a melan­cholic ex­pe­ri­ence, but rather an ex­cit­ing jour­ney that en­chanted and en­riched me cul­tur­ally. The haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful voices of monks in dimly lit cathe­drals, the stun­ning mas­ter­pieces in the Her­mitage, the silent icons in small churches in the coun­try­side... my head was fairly reel­ing. No one can pos­si­bly grasp the ex­tent of this com­plex coun­try in one visit. I’d love to go back, but would that ever hap­pen?

The cul­ture of a coun­try doesn’t just con­sist of great works of art and a rich his­tory. It also con­sists of ev­ery­day things, the su­per­sti­tions and myths of or­di­nary peo­ple. Some­thing that soon struck me about Rus­sians was that wed­dings are not re­served for week­ends. On any given day of the week, I would see cou­ples in bri­dal at­tire. A tour guide ca­su­ally men­tioned: if you see seven brides in one day, you’ll have seven years of good for­tune. And if you’re a vis­i­tor, you will re­turn to this re­lent­less, awe-in­spir­ing coun­try.

This was an op­por­tu­nity not to be missed. If I could spot seven brides, I would be able to visit this coun­try once again. And I would have seven years of good luck! I started keep­ing my eyes open for the gos­samer white of wed­ding dresses. And I did in­deed see them. The brides would sud­denly ap­pear; in a park, on the street, in a shop­ping cen­tre. I’d spot the filmy white dress, beau­ti­ful shoul­ders, el­e­gant shoes, the flash of a small di­a­mond on a ring fin­ger. Ev­ery day I’d see three or four... but never seven.

In Moscow, I saw five brides one Thurs­day, each as beau­ti­ful as the next, be­cause Rus­sian women are gor­geous. But I searched in vain for bride num­ber seven.

In St. Peters­burg I started my search again, adding them up. Ev­ery day they’d make their fleet­ing ap­pear­ances, the brides in white, and van­ish again, without me reach­ing the magic num­ber which would en­sure my re­turn and seven years of good for­tune.

On our last Sunday in St. Peters­burg there was a bride with us in the ho­tel’s break­fast room early that morn­ing. Bride num­ber one! As we left the ho­tel, there in the street was bride num­ber two, clutch­ing her hus­band’s hand. We crossed a square and I spot­ted bride num­ber three, with a pho­tog­ra­pher tak­ing her pic­ture. While on the bus en route to Pushkin I no­ticed the fourth bride in a park. It was a fleet­ing glimpse, but I saw her.

We vis­ited the breath­tak­ing Peter­hof Palace and its ex­ten­sive gar­dens. In front of one of the sparkling foun­tains there she was, a beau­ti­ful vi­sion in wispy white, bride num­ber five. And shortly there­after, in the av­enue, in deep shade, was bride num­ber six, strolling with her en­tourage down the long av­enue, a sum­mery spec­tre. I held my breath. Look­ing in all di­rec­tions, I searched for bride num­ber seven. But just like that, all the brides on earth had dis­ap­peared.

The time came to leave. On the way to the palace gate we came across a small chapel nes­tled un­der huge trees, slightly hid­den. I broke away from my com­pan­ions; for one last time I wanted to savour the quiet of a chapel. And there I found her, my sev­enth bride. In her lovely dress, on bended knee at the al­tar, pray­ing.

I left the chapel without her know­ing I was there. I also said a quick prayer for her hap­pi­ness, without hav­ing to go on bended knee.

I know: I’ll be back. And, I am blessed.

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