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The trip to Moscow June 2 to June 7, accompanied by Tatiana Gordienko, of the Kamchatka Region State Environmental Committee, was rewarding but exhausting for both of us. It didn't help when on the way back by Aeroflot, half way across Russia en route to Kamchatka, the pilot announced that there was engine trouble and we would have to return to Moscow. Tatiana turned to me and asked: "Maureen, have you done many bad things in your life?" The stewardess said this sort of thing is rather regular and if any warning lights come on the plane always returns for a check. Tatiana's humor continued. Apparently not too much was wrong and 6 hours later, after a complimentary dinner of two sausages and some potato, we successfully returned to Petropavlovsk.
Ever since the beginning of our work at Kambalnoe Lake, I have wanted to exhibit, "Through the eyes of the Bear", in Moscow as well as in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I wanted to bring my ideas on living with bears as closely as I do to a Russian public, and do so on a large scale in a great space with lots of media involved, to hopefully extend thinking about bears. Like most ideas of mine, they are pretty exciting at the inception, but when reality kicks in, they are a ton of work. In May, three days before leaving for Kamchatka, I completed (with a lot of help) one of the components of the exhibition, a cement floor sculpture of 26 ft. 6 ft of bear tracks collected originally in plaster at Kambalnoe Lake. I almost cancelled the Moscow trip as I was just too tired after working all winter on the exhibition, "Through the eyes of the Bear", that will open the new Muttart Contemporary Art Center, as part of their millennium celebration in January, 2000. A day after arriving in Petropavlovsk, via Anchorage, Alaska, we left for the Big City.
It is the Russian people that continue to keep me from giving up when the going really gets tough here. We arrived at Moscow airport only to discover our pre-arranged person to meet us couldn't make it. A friend, in Petropavlovsk, had asked me to carry a package to his business associate. I guessed it was money and couldn't believe the trust in me to meet successfully with this unknown person. After rather easily identifying me, and realizing our plight, Olga invited us to come and stay in her tiny apartment for the week. She rang up friends and Ludmilla and Sasha became our drivers for the week.
I gained the support of the Canadian Embassy in Moscow to help me find a suitable location for the art exhibition. Elena Gaisina, the Information and Public Affairs representative had arranged meetings with Directors of all the potential museums and galleries for me to consider. She even took the time to accompany us to galleries she thought might be highest on the list. We also had a very gracious lunch meeting with Ambassador Anne Leahy. I can see how she has gained so much respect here. She had an additional idea for my art exhibition which she said she would pursue the Trechikov Gallery. The State Museum of Oriental Art (which received an exhibition I believe from the Museum of Man in Ottawa in 1998) expressed a strong interest. There is some really good contemporary, "cutting edge" art in Moscow, closely associated ideologically with what I have observed coming out of Berlin. I did not have a chance to see the historical collections, as just before I left Kamchatke, I learned of the bureaucratic mess our project had lapsed into and Tatiana and I found ourselves in meetings with the Russia State Committee on Environmental Protection for the next two days. Our schedule was brutal with meetings all day, writing formal letters in English and Russian requesting help for assistance in resolving some of the damage resulting from the hate campaign of Kamchatka Scientist, Vitaly Nikaelenko, which had raged all the past winter. Eugene Vystorobets, the Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs for Canada and Russia for the State Environmental Committee assisted us in what turns out to be the "setting of a record". We left these Official Offices Monday, 3 working days after our arrival, with an official letter to Kronotsky State Preserve, telling them to approve our project and facilitate the creation of a "Scientific Expertise" review, which would make it a law for our work to commence this year. Anatoly Yephimenko, Chief and Tatiana Gordienko, of the Kamchatka Environmental Committee, continue to amaze me. In spite of all the allegations about illegal activity, spy activity, bribes to State Officials that ended up in the newspaper here, they supported the integrity of our work at every level, including in the offices of the Chiefs of the of the Russia State Committee on Environmental Protection. Canadian Ambassador to Russia, Anne Leafy, wrote a letter of support for Charlie's and my work and well as for the art exhibition planned for Moscow and sent it to Mr. Amirkhanov, Deputy Chair of the Russia State Committee on Environmental Protection and to Mr. Biryokov, the Governor of Kamchatka. She sent a copy of all correspondence to Mr. Kurayev, head of the International Cooperation Department at Goskomeeolgiya(I don't really know what this office is, but everyone here is terribly impressed!). Ambassador Leahy: "Thank you."
On the day of our flight to return to now what we idealized as beautiful, cool Kamchatka, we met with CBC International Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, who has expressed an interest in coming to Kamchatka in September to visit Charlie and I and our bears at Kambalnoe Lake. I don't think anyone can really imagine how sad I was to learn about the disappearance of Rosie from our trio. We are not optimistic that she is still alive. Charlie wrote about this last web entry. I will never forget the day she accepted me in the line of bears, safely between she and Biscuit, as we crossed the tundra together.(Not to mention the fact that we were fellow "artists"!)
We still have hopes that we may gain permission from the Moscow Office to receive the little orphan male cub in the Petropavlovsk Zoo so he can live and take part in the project about man and bears living in trust of one another.
We have one paper left for signing and then we pray we will be off for Kambalnoe lake on Monday, June 20,1999. Charlie arrived May 14th! I worry about the safety of Chico and Biscuit. I long to see them again".