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In chapter 3 of Sweet Darusya, Maria mentioned told one of her friends "...and it's all from the fact, dear Varvara, that you didn't confess this year." Why did she say this? Was she expecting that Varvara would go to confession once a year? Would annual confession have been a common expectation in rural Ukraine?

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    I am not aware with the specifics of the Ukrainian Orthodox church of any time, this is why I do not write a full answer. The idea is that the "perfect" christian confesses daily. For most people, weekly confession is recommended. Monthly is a minimum recommended. For worst cases, confession should happen at least once a year. "you didn't confess this year" could mean that Varvara failed to do even the bare minimum - let alone doing the recommended way, or the perfect way.
    – virolino
    Feb 9, 2023 at 6:19
  • Could this be a translation issue between Ukrainian and English with didn't as opposed to haven't? Meaning that may the author originally mean to say that they haven't confessed this year? Just a thought with regard to translated text. Feb 9, 2023 at 7:00
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    I don't think this is a good fit for the site. It's a question entirely about history and/or culture which happens to have been mentioned in a literary work, rather than literature itself.
    – Matt Thrower
    Feb 9, 2023 at 9:52
  • @ChrisRogers: the question is not about grammar details, but about religious life. As MattThrower already wrote, this question is not very well suited for this site.
    – virolino
    Feb 9, 2023 at 12:31
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    @MattThrower I edited to be more explicitly about the character's beliefs/behavior - hopefully the edit helps. Feb 9, 2023 at 15:31

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It's impossible to answer definitively because the requirements of confession are dictated by local custom; but in both the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, communion should be taken once a year at minimum, and confession would ordinarily precede communion. According to an Orthodox Church of America site,

Confession before each Eucharist is a common practice in Russia, Romania, and Ukraine. It developed in the past centuries due to the lack of frequent communion among the faithful. At some point in the past several centuries, people began to receive communion only once – maybe twice – a year.

The literary importance of the OP's question, in my mind, is not what the requirements of the tradition are but how the statement shows us both the (ir-)religious nature of the one character and how that is perceived by the other (whether herself genuinely religious or merely virtue signaling).

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TL;DR: "you didn't confess" = "you are seeing ghosts because you haven't visited church".


It is worth mentioning the nature of the "negative event". Varvara was walking by the wall of a local cemetery and saw a human-looking ghost with scary voice inside. And then Darusya came out the cemetery gate, so Varvara mistreated the ghost with Darusya.

This corroborates with the plot that Darusya couldn't (or didn't want to) talk.

In Christianity, the common tradition to overcome ghosts and devilry is to visit a church.

The visit may or may not include confession per se; it may be just listening for a weekly preach. In Western Ukraine, especially in small villages, literally everyone sees each other in a local church at least on Sundays. Even in times of Russian/Sovjet occupation, but of course, on a smaller scale.

The events in "Sweet Darusya" unfold in Bukovyna. I'm not aware about the linguistic traditions of Bukovyna specifically, but there are towns in Lviv and Ternopil region that I'm aware about, where people say "I confessed on Sunday" meaning "I visited a church on Sunday", not literally meaning you confessed by telling your past sins to a priest.

I believe this is the answer:

"[you are seeing ghosts] ...and it's all from the fact, dear Varvara, that you haven't visited the church this year."

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