Giving thanks to the Russian circus performers

Happy Thanksgiving to all clowns and spectators! Source: AP

Happy Thanksgiving to all clowns and spectators! Source: AP

Although the Thanksgiving holiday is not celebrated in Russia, back in America, today's national holiday of thanks is a time when we are grateful to those who have changed our lives whether they know it or not.

Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. It’s a day for giving thanks, to our friends, family, colleagues, life in general.

OK, so it’s only one day a year when we think about everything we have to be thankful for. The rest of the year, it’s easy to forget. But in my case, I have a lot to be blagadarnaya for, as they say in Russian. For so many years, the Russian circus has been there by my side, nearly 25 to be exact. To use a terrible cliché, the artists have been there for me in good times and in bad, and when I say bad, I mean really bad.

I have tried to be there for them as well, especially the days and years when they’ve been out of work and struggled to find money to survive. There’s not a lot I can do, but I try to give them credit where credit is due, to bring attention to their artistry, their humor, their talent wherever and whenever I can. It can be hard, working in this world of arts, where contracts are not guaranteed, and it can be difficult to put food on the table.

Finding work as a performer can be challenging. And as a writer, I can sympathize because I can’t always find work myself, and there are times when everything just seems to go wrong. And sometimes I even forget about my funny friends, get down and out, and then boom, I start reaching out to them, and one thing I can always say: They are always there for me, eager to talk and pick up the phone or send an email with no problem, thanking me for reaching out and telling me how happy they are to hear from me.

And I am so thankful to them. Ever since I first saw the Moscow Circus, back in 1990, they’ve cheered me up, made me laugh, and just been there for me. The first time I went up to make the acquaintance of the Abakarova high wire walkers the summer after I graduated from college, I was in a blue mood. I went to the circus to get a laugh. I didn’t anticipate actually meeting anyone there, but I did, during the intermission. The troupe then came over to my house, and my longstanding relationship began.

Big Moscow Circus. Source:

They have brought so much joy into my life, taught me things I never knew, and given freely of their time for all the articles I have written. 

Recently I reached out to a friend named Sergei Bodrov, wondering if he’d remember me. He and I met at the NIKA awards, the Russian version of the Oscars. We is a well-known Russian movie screenwriter, director and producer who’s won two Academy Award nominations for best foreign film.

We struck up a conversation about circus, and ended up going to see a performance together. This was back some 15 years ago. We both shared a passion for circus life, and I wondered aloud in my letter to him whether the bear in a circus movie he subsequently made was real or fake. I’d always wondered.

Interview with Russian film director Sergei Bodrov about his film, "Mongol." Source: Sneak Peek / YouTube

He wrote back to me immediately – and said, “Of course I remember you,”  and, “Yes, the bear was real.”  He said he had some more circus talk on the horizon to discuss with me, and, “Yes,” he’d be happy to be interviewed for my blog.  I was surprised. He’s a very famous guy, and 15 years is a long time.

I had been feeling rather down the day I emailed him, and his email just picked me right up. It was a half page long.

I may not know a  lot of things in life. But one thing I know for sure. The circus folk and those like myself who love them, are people to always be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Read more about circus in RBTH blog "Clowns in the Desert">>>

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