A statue of Russia's Snow Maiden has been removed from a north-western town and given a mood makeover after complaints that she looked miserable.
The Snow Maiden is a traditional character from Russian folklore, and considered an essential part of the country's New Year celebrations. A huge statue of her was erected in Gatchina, near St Petersburg, alongside a super-sized Grandfather Frost, Russia's equivalent of Father Christmas. But it wasn't long before local people and media alike started commenting on the Snow Maiden's somewhat glum expression.
A presenter for the NTV news channel described the statue as having a "dismal face", which didn't show any "happiness in anticipation of the New Year". Some residents gave wry responses when a local TV channel asked what they thought of the statues, with one man saying they simply reflected people's general mood, while another said: "I just don't look at them."
In order to imbue the Snow Maiden with some festive cheer, its head and shoulders were promptly taken off and returned to the workshop, where artists plastered on a smile and a "friendly look", NTV's presenter said.
Local authorities shelled out nearly 1.2m roubles ($16,600; £11,200) on the statues, according to the pro-Kremlin TV channel LifeNews. It described both the figures as "frightening" and dispatched a reporter to the scene to witness the newly cheerful Snow Maiden being reassembled.
The mother of a premature baby saved by a transfusion is urging people to donate blood, saying "just do it and see if you can save somebody's life". Sian Waugh's son Conan weighed less than 800 grams when he arrived 15 weeks early. Her pregnancy was progressing normally until 25 weeks when she was rushed into hospital and gave birth. At two days old, Conan needed a blood transfusion after suffering a haemorrhage in his tiny lungs. A second transfusion was carried out in the days that followed. Ms Waugh, from Midlothian, said it completely transformed Conan, who is now a healthy 18-month-old. She said: "It was like a tonic, he just had a teaspoon as that's all he needed in his body. It was like a completely different baby. He went from strength to strength after that." Conan had a long road to recovery but was finally allowed home after 112 days in hospital. He is now a "normal happy baby", thanks to the blood of an unknown donor. Ms Waugh said people are often shocked when she tells them how ill her son once was. She said: "Everyone just looks at me and doesn't believe me because he just looks like a normal 18-month-old." For the 36-year-old, the hour it took for a stranger to donate blood has given Conan a whole new chance at life. "If that person came in the door now and said 'I was the one who gave that blood to Conan', I would hug them and wouldn't stop hugging them. The reality is that transfusion saved his life," she said. The Scottish National Blood Transfusion service requires 550 blood donations every day to meet the needs of patients in Scotland and just three teaspoons of blood can save the life of a premature baby. Each of the eight blood groups must be maintained at five to seven days' supply and there is a particular demand for O negative and O positive donations. Blood stock levels can be checked at the Scotblood website. The donation service is calling for people to give blood at a time of year that traditionally sees donations drop by up to 20%. Lynne Willdigg, head of donor services for the west of Scotland, said this was due to the demands of the festive period. She said: "People's lives are very busy. We forget to take time out - we're all so busy rushing about, we've done our Christmas shopping, we're now preparing already for New Year. "Taking that time out to go and make a donation is important. It's something that will make a difference." Ms Willdigg also highlighted the next few weeks of the year as the perfect time for change and hopes that signing up to donate blood could be a popular new year's resolution. She said: "We waste so much time in our life doing things which are unimportant but the best gift that Sian and Conan have received was the blood transfusion which someone took the time to donate.
Trinity Church is not the only church in Antarctica, but it may well be the most elaborate. Featuring ornate iconostasis that you might expect to find in Russia but is oddly out of character with all the other boxy, utilitarian, prefabricated buildings on an Antarctic scientific research base, it’s a Russian Orthodox church–the world’s southernmost eastern orthodox church–on Russia’s Belingshausen Station on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands.1 It’s located on a rocky outcrop separate from but overlooking a cluster of research bases.
Amongst hard-core Antarcticans, King George Island is regarded as a bit of a beach holiday. It’s outside the Antarctic Circle (but within the Antarctic Treaty Zone) and right on the northern edge of the winter sea ice shelf. While it still gets plenty cold and windy, especially in winter, it’s generally not as harsh or as iced-in as some of the higher latitudes.But even in these conditions, just getting to the church itself takes a bit of effort. There’s no protected tunnel access here or even nicely plowed paths–you have to walk up the hill, trudging through the deep snow. That can’t be a lot of fun during a winter blizzard.As you can imagine, building a church–or building anything, for that matter–in Antarctica is a bit more complicated that your run-of-the-mill construction. You can’t just duck down the road to the local building supplies place to pick up the wood or chop down some nearby trees. And you have to be prepared to work in whatever windows of good weather present themselves.The story of the construction of Trinity Church starts sometime in the 1990s, when discussions about building an orthodox church in Antarctica started gaining momentum. By 2000 a plan was in place.The new church was intended to have two objectives: firstly, to server as a tribute to those who had played a role in exploring Antarctica, especially Russians Fabian von Bellingshausen, his deputy, Mikhail Lazarev, and Russians who had died in the region; and, secondly, to provide a place of worship for residents of any of the nearby research bases.The church was designed and built of Siberian cedar and pine in Altay village Kyzil-Ozek in 2002. Once completed, it was dismantled, loaded on to trucks, and driven to the Polish port of Kaliningrad and put aboard the Academician Serge Vavilov for the trip south to King George Island.Once in the Antarctic, the church was installed on a sturdy concrete foundation during 2003-04, and church bells were constructed. Special steel braces secure the roof to the foundation, running through the nave, to help the structure withstand winds of up to 90 miles and hour (up to 80 knots).The church was consecrated on February 15, 2004, by the Bishop of Sergiyev Posad and the Namestnik of Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra. They, along with a group of other clerics, pilgrims, and sponsors, traveled to King George Island for the occasion. As the divine liturgy was being performed the clouds parted briefly to allow the sun to shine directly on the church. Some of those present took it as a fortuitous “little miracle.” And for the first time in history, church bells rang out in Antarctica.Two orthodox priests are in residence year-round, and the church can house a congregation of about 30. If you’d like to visit the Trinity Church but Antarctica is a bit too far away, there’s apparently a full-size replica in Valday, Russia.