VIDEO: Russian Princess buried in Shoreham remembered in 95th anniversary evensong

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The 95th anniversary of the death of a Russian princess was marked by an evensong service at the Shoreham church where she is buried.

The first of a series of events commemorating Lydia Yavorska, Princess Bariatinsky, was held at St Nicolas’ Church, Old Shoreham, on Sunday.

Constance Starns (centre) with choir members

Constance Starns (centre) with choir members

Elements of Russian Orthodox worship were incorporated into the service, with 14-year-old Constance Starns performing the first verse of the Kontakion, a hymn, as a solo in Russian alongside the choir.

Reverend James Grant’s sermon took inspiration from the princess’ dramatic life, drawing parallels between her fund raising work for First World War refugees and the efforts we can make to help refugees in Europe today.

The evening was organised by John and Jeannette Simpson from Shoreham, who have spent the past four years writing a book about the princess’ life, due to be released soon.

Mr Simpson said of the evensong service: “It was so beautiful, really magnificent.”

Polina Shepherd with the grave of Lydia Yavorska, Princess Bariatinsky

Polina Shepherd with the grave of Lydia Yavorska, Princess Bariatinsky

It was curiosity from congregation members about the unusual grave in the churchyard that first led Mr Simpson, the treasurer of the church, and his wife to research the princess’ life.

Fascinated by her story, they travelled to Russia, Italy and Estonia to complete the 350 page book, which includes 650 illustrations.

The princess, who was an actress and theatre manager, as well as a suffragette who defied the Bolsheviks, lived in England from 1909-1915.

She loved the south coast, enjoyed walking in the south downs and spent time in Shoreham, which Mr Simpson described as the ‘hollywood’ of its day- its film studios on the beach attracting famous actors.

She was staying with her friend Major Pearson, of Carlisle Road, Hove, when she died in 1921.

Of her burial place in Shoreham, Mr Simpson said: “The church is very beautiful and St Nicolas is actually the patron saint of Russia, so that’s another link to her.”

Any funds generated by sales from the not for profit book will go towards maintaining her grave and St Nicolas’ church.

On Saturday, September 10 the church will be open for guided tours and at 7.30pm, an audio-visual presentation about the life and times of Lydia Yavorska, titled ‘Princess of Dreams’ will be held.

A ‘Concert for a Russian Princess’ will be performed by the Brighton and Hove Russian Choir on Saturday, September 17 at the church.

Email princess@simpson.uk.com for more information about these events.