Art Above Politics, Love Above War

Several years ago, I met Helen, a newcomer from Russia, at Bev Morton’s Wayne Arthur gallery here in Winnipeg. (Bev sadly passed away in Nov/21).  Helen’s art was as captivating as her warm personality. As a newcomer to Canada, she was eager to be accepted in our culture using her art as a universal language. During one of her doll workshops, I got to know her better while creating my little ‘kulak’ doll. 

Unfortunately, Canada is home to many a starving artist.  Becoming financially independent as an artist is a huge challenge for locals as well as new residents. My Russian friend struggled to make the proper connections but money was always tight. Disappointed, she finally returned back to Russia, her Canadian husband, Ed, in tow.  

Helen and Ed created a home for themselves—and for Helen's art—outside of Togliatty (known for its Lada cars) in the Samara Oblast. 

My Katya doll

Before Helen left Canada, she and I had collaborated on a picture book. Time was short and the project shelved until late 2021. Finally, in January, 2022 we focused time online working on the details. Helen was determined to make this happen and I admired her tenacity. Then in February 24, 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine and our book project was again stalled.

Kudos to Helen for believing in the power of family, of friendship and of art, for finishing up this story project. I wrote the English text, Helen supplied the Russian translation and created the art, the layout and the final production. She launched the book at her gallery in Samara earlier this fall. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to visit Togliatty on the Volga River and together we can spread the message that just because people are different, doesn’t mean we can’t still love and support each other.

Someday this war will end and we can return to feathering our nests instead of destroying them. And someday, I will have this book about storks and cuckoos produced for distribution in Canada. 

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