The big news in the headlines over the last few months has been the Russian grab for Crimea, the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, and then the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
Before all this political turmoil, I was invited to attend the Linoleum Animation Festival in Kiev (or "Kyiv"). As the festival neared and the war was really heating up, many friends warned me not to go.
However, at the moment the war seemed to be located on the eastern side of Ukraine, and I figured I would be relatively safe in Kiev, which is more centrally located in the country. The festival organizers were probably very relieved to see me step off the plane and arrive at the Arts Center, the location of the festival. I think they took bets on whether I had the guts to make the flight there.
The festival took place September 17-20, and was organized by Michael Tsarev. It was originally located in Moscow but they felt that the Ukraine was a much better location.
Other than the flower memorials for fallen demonstrators placed around the famous Mydon Square, there was no physical evidence whatsoever that there was an invasion going on. However, in talking to all of the people at the festival I could feel a palpable mood of fear and insecurity, since Ukraine has an army about 1/1000 the size of the Russian army - besides, Putin is such a madman (very similar to George W. Bush).
But the festival went on with a great spirit of a brighter animated future.
One of the other judges was the great Russian animator Garri Bardin, who I met 20 years ago. He's done some of my favorite films. We chose to give prizes to "Gum" and "The Lost Handkerchief", two very wonderful films.
After a quick tour of the famous "cave" monastery" and the Russian park for World War II ("The Great Patriotic War"), where I saw all the mighty Russian battle weapons, T-34 tanks, and Sturmovick airplanes, then I was whisked to my next stop, St. Petersburg, Russia.