Podmotsa – a home at the edge of the world
Podmotsa is a place where Estonia ends and Russia begins. One hundred meters across the water, in Russia, stands the majestic Kulje church. When the border between Estonia and Russia was still open, the priest from Kulje church as well as the local villagers used to come to Podmotsa chapel (tsässon) to celebrate Whitsunday. The beginning of celebrations was always marked by the arrival of crosses and icons, which were carried across the bay on a boat or raft.
Whitsunday is celebrated to this day. The tsässon is decorated with young birch trees and people coming to the mass bring eggs painted yellow with birch leaves. The eggs are later eaten at the tombs of the local cemetery – a tradition stretching back hundreds of years. The meal, consisting of sandwiches, pies, curd cheese with caraway seeds (sõir), smoked fish, candies and various drinks, is placed on a white linen cloth on the bench or over the tomb. The meal symbolises the connection between the family and their deceased relatives.
For the people in Podmotsa, burying their near and dear close to their homes, parents and relatives is still a common practice, even today. This is how the Seto people have lived since ancient times, with their traditions, culture and religion influenced by both Estonia and Russia. The village cemetery is still an important place to gather and remember their dead ones. Old traditions and customs are blended with those of the modern world. This is a place at the crossroads of the new and old, on the border between Europe and Russia.