A long while ago Audrey and I happened into a used book store. From the shelves I pulled this old library book, some of its pages stamped “discard” and from the moment I saw it, I was in love. Published in the 70s by “Bernadette”, (later editions say Bernadette Watts) the book Varenka tells the story of an old peasant woman who lives alone in a little house in the forest. She bakes and prays and lives a secluded life, until one day she sees villagers fleeing from the area saying that soldiers are coming– and not the good kind. They urge Varenka to flee with them, but she decides to stay. She prays at her icons and stays warm within her little house.
Ever so often, others displaced from their homes find their way to Varenka. A goatherd, an artist, a little girl. Together they make their home in Varenka’s little house, praying for safety, and becoming friends. However, the war and its fighting and violence are coming closer…
So all the friends huddle and pray together for God to help them stay safe, and the night before the soldiers march through the forest a deep, deep snow falls, burying the little house until it looks like another snow drift, and the soldiers march on past, never knowing that Varenka and her friends are hiding inside.
And so, the story of Varenka ends with a miracle and thankful hearts– a very sweet little story. But what I also love is the whimsical and childlike artwork that accompanies it, with all its folk motifs and bright, rich colors. For me, this book is so inspiring. I love the little domestic scenes and the little paintings within paintings– whether its an icon or a beautiful painted pieced of furniture.
I’m pleased to see that some copies are available on Amazon— and this book makes me curious to see other books by Bernadette Watts who both wrote and illustrated the story. It also makes me think of my own writing and painting…a project that I have not forgotten about!
I hope you enjoyed this little peek at Varenka– Have a good weekend!!!~