Enjoying pure healing water
By Vasily Rodionov
The UNDP Office in Belarus is partnering the Christian Social Service inter-confessional mission to launch the Live Water — Purification of Spring Wells in Belarus project. This aims to improve four spring wells in the Vitebsk and Mogilev regions — under the patronage of church communities. The project is being financed by Coca-Cola Beverages and the Global Environmental Facility.
The veneration of spring wells is a special phenomenon in the traditional culture of Belarusians as, since ancient times, people have thought natural water sources to be imbued with holy healing powers.
The first documental mentioning of Proshcha, not far from Osipovichi, dates back to 1864. According to legend, two blind travellers drank water from the spring and washed themselves, miraculously recovering their sight. They also saw an icon of the Virgin Mary appear on a tree near the spring well. People brought the Christian relic to the nearest church three times but, each time, it had returned to the same tree in the forest by the next day. In 1864, a church was erected on the site, with thousands of pilgrims since arriving from far and wide to pray and wash themselves in the spring water, which is still thought to have healing properties.
The word ‘proshcha’ derives from the ‘remission of sins’, and indicates miraculous powers. In Belarus, those places in which people gathered to ask for forgiveness of sins, or to request the successful delivery of healthy children were called ‘proshchas’.
Vitebsk’s ‘Paraskeva Pyatnitsa’ spring, found near the church of St. Thaddeus the Martyr, is located on the original site of the ancient wooden church of St. Paraskeva Pyatnitsa and its water is thought to miraculously help with illnesses of the leg.
The spring runs under Drutsk agro-town, which is famous for its Holy Mother of God Church, built in 1001 and thought to be one of the first Christian churches on Belarusian territory.
The project will see these springs purified and developed, to allow more people to enjoy their pure healthy water. It should also help Belarusian brooks, lakes and rivers become cleaner.