Alla Svirinskaya

Alla be praised

Alla be praised

Alla be praised

Kate Bernard had a lump in her neck, a vast appetite but no weight gain, and violent mood swings. She put herself in the hands of a healer and was astonished by the results.

By last October, I was convinced that I had an over-active thyroid gland. I was subject to a vast appetite but no weight gain (the envy of my friends but for the little neck lump that went with it, which was better suited to a pubescent male), unnatural highs during which I stayed up all night, and crashing exhaustion which pinned me to the bed in the least exciting way. All this, coupled with the knowledge that thyroid problems can be inherited, had sent me to my GP.

I hate going to the doctor, but I did not relish suffering as my mother had when it took her doctor long months to diagnose her thyroid condition. Her weight dropped to seven stone, and she bore an increasing resemblance to Marty Feldman as her eyelids retracted. She was a gentle person, but her mood swings soon made those of her histrionic children seem negligible, as her hormones went on the rampage. It took strong drugs to relieve her condition and I was preparing myself for the same sort of treatment.

I like my doctor: she is brusque but efficient. Today, she was somewhat irritable. Either she had this thyroid thing too, or, like most doctors, she cannot stand her patients' self-diagnoses. Without touching me, or even looking at me much, she said a thyroid condition was very unlikely. (My last doctor had tried to send me for a test but I hadn't gone. A friend with a prohibitively expensive practice had felt my throat a few days before and agreed that I should go. The result: negative. Missing, presumed non-existent.) I had no feeling of relief at all; if it wasn't my thyroid, it must be cancer.

It was a few weeks later that I bumped into Alla Svirinskaya, someone I had met two years before through a Russophile boyfriend and had not seen since. We had tea. I knew she worked at The Life Centre as some sort of healer and that she had studied conventional medicine in Moscow before moving to London three years ago. She wanted me to visit her house the next week for a healing.

'I'm sure you have an over-active thyroid gland,' she said. 'Oh no, I haven't,' I explained. 'Please, come to me and you will see,' she replied.

A ridiculous pride came into play for the next few weeks. 'There's nothing wrong with me,' I would tell myself, moments before attacking some innocent or sobbing into my darkest lenses. Sunlight was beginning to annoy me - the world was very bright these days.

I felt quite relaxed when I arrived for my first appointment. I was late: a sign, I now see, of trepidation. Alla introduced me to her mother, Galina, a calm, beautiful woman who has a successful practice in Moscow. Galina was officially on holiday but liked being around to give help and advice during the sessions.

I stood there in bare feet, fully clothed, while they ran their hands up, down and around my body but about three inches from its surface, Galina all the while chattering softly in Russian, Alla to me in English.

They told me things about my body which I never discuss, and facts about my birth and childhood illnesses. Alla knew where my scars (from shingles) were, suggested that there was diabetes in my family (two close members have it), and said that there was no doubt about the lump in my throat, it was - ugly word - a goitre. She asked me to lie on the floor while she and Galina healed a scar on my ovary (it felt like a tiny ball bearing in circulation), cleaned my gall bladder (leaving an awful metallic taste on the tip of my tongue) and finally treated my upper intestine (of which more later). This they did with similar hand actions but more force and snapping of fingers. They blew compressed hot breath on various parts of my body, concentrating on my chest and intestine. When I was asked to stand up, I felt very dizzy and stumbled to the chair provided.

I sat with my eyes closed while they blew on them and then made a sort of cobweb-removing action in front of my neck. Soon I had a feeling that the flesh of my throat was being peeled back and the lump itself exposed - a bizarre sensation, not wholly unpleasant. My breathing was unrestricted and I felt calm. When I swallowed again, there was no snow white apple there; something had been dislodged. Soon, someone pressed her hands on my head and suddenly released the pressure. 'Open your eyes!' The whole exercise had taken about 30 minutes.

'How do you feel?' said Alla. I looked around me. Galina was smiling and nodding. 'Mama says look at the flowers.' I looked. Colours seemed more intense but the light was less hard than before, less intrusive. I suddenly understood what it meant to be 'on the outside looking in'.

Nothing in my sight crowded me. When they let me to the mirror, I could hardly believe my apparently new eyes. The lump? Gone. The neck? Thinner. The eyes were like those which stared back at me ten years ago: twenty-year-old eyes, bright as buttons. It won't last, I thought. It's a miracle.

You will find that you are tired. It's the detoxification,' Alla told me. 'Eat what you feel like, but no alcohol or junk food while we are working.' I haven't even wanted any. 'Don't be frightened if you go to the lavatory two or three times a day for a week or two.' I have. Galina likes me to go a lot and feeds me bortsch to build me up. Clearly, she learned to say 'good' on landing in London: it's a favourite word of hers. Alla said that my pee would smell when I first went after the session. I thought not; it never does if you drink lots of water. But she was right; it smelt like the aftermath of an asparagus-eating contest. My kidneys, the little dears, have been spring-cleaning. If I had put my first week's samples in a jar, which I couldn't face, there would have been an inch of grit at the bottom. 'Mama says plenty of sleep, and lots of love - it's great for your circulation,' said Alla. Galina nodded enthusiastically: 'Good!'

Since that day, I have felt very serene, literally renewed. I felt exhausted for a few days and a bit tired after my sessions (six should be enough for this, but Alla and Galina suggest that anyone who works with computers should have her energy balanced every week or two). Friends say how different I look, and I have no wish to rush any more, no panic, no desire to bark and bite. My neck is normal, having slimmed down over three weeks, my eyes are lively and I could swear that my face is filling out.

The gift of healing stretches back many generations in Alla's family but is not floating around the spiritual pigeon-hole. Alla and Galina agree that it is a physical-energy healing, one which involves reading a patient's aura to determine where the problem lies. They both use a conventional medical training to ask appropriate questions and will readily suggest the patient visit a specialist if they feel unable to tackle the problem, although Alla's healing can complement conventional treatment. As in all medicine, a positive mental response helps enormously. Alla will happily explain her methods, but, as she wisely says, people do not believe until they see. Her famous and famously sceptical patients are a healthy testimony to her extraordinary powers.

Alla Svirinskaya treats asthma, eczema, gynaecological problems, migraine, depression, hormonal imbalance, digestive problems, ear and eye problems, sinus blockage/infection, haemorrhoids, stiff joints and back complaints. She also offers a detoxification/energy-building programme.

Kate Bernard, Harpers & Queen