Efrosinya Polotskaya was a daughter of the prince of Vitebsk Svyatoslav Vseslavich, granddaughter of Vseslav Charodey, nun and educator of the Old Russian State. Efrosinya was a princess, a philosophical and spiritual leader in the Polotsk principality in the 12th century.
She was born between 1101 and 1105 in Polotsk. At the age of 12 (age of majority) she refused a dynastic marriage and went to the monastery.
She was a highly educated person of that period. She had a good knowledge of geography, Greek, Latin, mythology and other sciences. First she was a nun and later Mother Superior of the Convent. She did a lot of charitable work which included opening schools and hospitals. She taught other people, wrote and rewrote books by hand. She founded the Spass-Efrosinya church in Polotsk.
In 1161 on her request a famous jeweler Lasar Bogsha created a Cross to symbolize Christianity. The Cross was decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. There were icons of saints, the founders of the Christianity, Efrosinya and her parents on it. It became a national sacred thing. The Cross was taken out of Belarus during the Great Patriotic War and disappeared.
She presented a monastery with a remarkable work of Byzantine art – the icon The Virgin Hodegetria Ephesus.
Efrosinya decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Some months later she got seriously ill. She died in May 1167 in Jerusalem and was buried in the monastery of St. Theodosius. Twelve years later the body was transported to Kiev and then returned to Polotsk to be reburied in Spass-Efrosinya church which she had founded.
Paying tribute to her great service to the Motherland, the Belarusians restored the Cross of Efrosinya Polotskaya and placed it in the Spass-Efrosinya church in 1998. It has become one of the sacred things in Belarus.