Touching the icon: unique exhibition of icons and pictures for the blind opened in Kiev

An exhibition dedicated to the International Day of Disabled People is held from December 3 to 17 at the "Cathedral" Gallery of the spiritual and educational center of the UOC cathedral in Kiev. The exposition includes tactile pictures and icons of raised dots designed for the visually impaired. The unique exhibition was attended by an UOJ journalist.

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The first thing that occurred to the author of these lines is the fact that the common ban not to touch exhibits is deliberately violated by the visitors. Here the pictures and icons can and should be touched. And watching the visually impaired persons, touching with their fingers the icons, I read in their faces in-depth excitement. They seemed to see the works, but in some other eye. Special computer technology of the raised dots allows the blind through tactile perception to experience very precisely the beauty and depth of the sacred scenes. They, moreover, can read the Braille alphabet information about the image, located just below the icons.

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The exhibition was initiated and organized by the All-Ukrainian charitable organization of disabled people and retirees “Facing the Truth”. At the opening ceremony, the visitors were greeted by its chairman Vladimir Turskiy and the director of the "Cathedral" Gallery, rector of the Ss. Andrew and Vladimir Cathedral Archpriest Pavel Belyi. The cleric noted that with the blessing of, unfortunately, the late Metropolitan Vladimir, for many years the gallery has hosted various missionary activities and projects aimed at the spiritual education of the people who come here.

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"Today, – said the priest, – we open the exhibition, which is necessary not only to blind people, but also to those who can see. This event is of great significance because people with impairments show us that they are full members of society. And, despite the disability, they can bring into this world warmth, kindness and decorate it, helping each other. And I am sure that this exhibition will be of great spiritual benefit to all of us."

In his turn, Vladimir Turskiy thanked the gallery administration for cooperation and said that annually more than 10 thousand people in Ukraine lose sight, half of them – people of working age, so the main task of the organization "Facing the truth" is to help such people not to withdraw into themselves, but to continue living an active life. That's how Christian love of neighbor is expressed, – stressed Vladimir Turskiy, – which allows you to gain a spiritual vision, when "every breathing but praise the Lord."

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"Slave of God Lyudmila," – a young woman introduced herself to the UOJ journalists. – I’m a Kiev resident, a parishioner of the Ss. Andrew and Vladimir Cathedral. I have first learned about such icons. Very interesting. I decided to feel blind and touched the icons with closed eyes. It’s very unusual, I should say, but I’ve got a feeling of the image. Just the blind, probably, feel it somehow different. It is very good that there are such people as Vladimir Turskiy, who are concerned about the lives of the visually impaired and understand their desire for spirituality. And I was greatly impressed by his story about Mount Athos in Greece which he had visited together with other visually impaired people. Just imagine – a fully blind man with such a thirst for life, for God ... Moreover, he helps others with the same disability. Thank God for such people! Our Father has rightly said in his welcome speech that for all of us who is healthy and can see this is a great lesson."

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People gladly got acquainted with the exhibition to find out a lot of useful information. The authors of the exhibition have selected the scenes of miracles related to blindness from Biblical history. Among them are the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God, which in 1596 returned sight to a forty-year-old man named Philip who had been blind from birth; an icon of the Holy Blessed Matrona of Moscow who was born blind; an icon of the Holy Confessor Luke (Voyno-Yasenetsky), a bishop and surgeon who healed the sick by his prayer and medical skills, who became totally blind at the end of his life, but nevertheless continued to heal people; and other icons.

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Many of the pictures are dedicated to biblical scenes, in which the Lord gives sight to the blind. The exhibition also tells the visitors about how the blind and visually impaired people learn to be space-aware, to read special Braille alphabet and due to modern computer technologies master the computer by ear, using special sound programs.

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According to Vladimir Turskiy, the exhibition will serve a good cause of familiarizing the blind with the rich world of iconography. Though these unusual icons made by volunteers of the charitable organization "Facing the Truth" by Louis Braille technology have appeared recently, they have already visited the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, the Holy Trinity Monastery of St. Jonas and other churches of Ukraine.

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