In May of 1993, I produced “Inside the KGB”, a 90 minute television special for NBC. “That’s enough of that,” I said to myself. “It’s time to work on something you always wanted to do.” And I started writing “The Incredible Adventures of Kitto”, a fairy tale series for children. It took almost five years to complete the first three books of the series, including finding the right artist to create many illustrations I envisioned.

artistsRussia has a very rich artistic history. It is the home of many thousands of artists. During my search I discovered two exceptionally talented artists Anna and Nadezhda Balzhak. The sisters had a particular quality and genre in their earlier works. Graduates of the Moscow Art Institute of Surikov, they had done many wonderful illustrations for Russian and world classics, such as A. Pushkin’s Evgeny Onegin, Dame of Spades, Hunchback Horse and Tzar Soltan, A. Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Dame with a little Dog, V. Hugo’s Count de Montecristo among others. It took them two years to complete the creative task: 120 full sized watercolor illustrations. Hundreds of facsimiles traveled back and forth between Moscow and Los Angeles. I made eleven trips to Russia before Nadezhda finally came to LA in the summer of 1997 to put the finishing touches on the fine art.

Anyone who is familiar with the work of an illustrator will understand how much care and love went into the bright, colorful books of “The Incredible Adventures of Kitto”. A child may forget the details of the book’s content, but the rainbow of colors, the unique drawings will leave traces in a child’s mind for a very long time, maybe forever.

I believe it is very important for children’s books to convey life’s true values. This is a basic objective of all the books published by RAMAPress. I envision millions of children around the world being entertained by reading “The Incredible Adventures of Kitto”, but, at the same time, receiving the message of love, courage and wisdom. I see their young bright eyes sparkling with this love as they say to themselves: “I too can overcome overwhelming adversity as Kitto.”

With respect to my background, I was born in the city, Vladivostok, a large port on the East Coast of Russian Siberia. My father, Zinovi Spilny, a Navy test pilot, died when his brand new bomber exploded 300 feet above the airfield. My mother, Anna, loved my father dearly. She never remarried. Instead, she devoted her entire life to my little sister Sinilga (Snow, in Siberian dialect) and myself.

parentsMy life has been an incredible adventure. During my early years, my mother was quite busy working. My sister and I spent much time with Emma, our communal apartment neighbor. The wife of an underwater engineer, who was exiled to Siberia, Emma was in possession of the greatest treasure - a unique library. Leather-bound volumes of Brogouse’s Encyclopaedia published at the turn of the century, Russian and foreign classics and lovely art books filled her glass shelves. The real gems of this collection for me were the beautifully illustrated travelogues and adventure stories.

I spent days and months reading, memorizing the stories and redrawing illustrations of sailing ships. In my vivid dreams, I was sailing tall ships in far away Southern Seas, discovering uninhabited islands and fighting the pirates. Sure enough, almost all of these dreams came true, but in a variety of concepts.

I left Russia in 1972 with my wife and our three month-old son. Since then, I traveled to the Middle East and Africa, Europe and the islands in the Southern seas. I even organized a treasure hunt expedition to Jamaica.

I now understand: it is extremely important to help children in choosing their preferences, because an idea accepted by the child’s subconscious as true, will sooner or later become a reality. This is why the wise of all times taught the importance of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil’, so that ‘evil’ does not happen in one’s life.

Seeing is the most powerful of all senses. It is through sight that much information enters the mind. It is therefore very important to select reading material for children that emphasizes good and beautiful things.

It was probably because of my father’s Navy uniform that I spent six years in the St. Petersburg’s Naval Academy. One day, in my third year of studies, I saw the English Russian dictionary in the Academy’s bookstore. My school knowledge of English language was next to nothing, but something within me was very attracted to this little book. Obeying the ‘advice’, I bought the dictionary. From that day on I began memorizing English words until I knew almost the entire dictionary by heart. That was my second unconscious step towards the realization of my dreams to travel around the world.

Mind you, dear reader, at that time I had no conscious thought of leaving Russia. I had no hope, especially because I was to become a naval engineer. Military personnel could not leave the USSR for many years even after they retired.

yuri-navyOne early morning, I woke up in a cold sweat. A thought rang persistently in my mind: “You’re wasting your life away!” I obeyed this inner advice as well, though for no seemingly conscious reasons whatsoever. In two months, I was out of the Academy. That was my third unconscious step towards a future departure. Something within was carefully preparing and guiding my destiny towards great change. I was floating from hint to hint, not resisting anything that would come along, just obeying these inner commands.

It is most likely that because my father had also left me a Leica camera, and because my caring mother saved it for me that I went to Moscow film school. Since then I have written, shot, directed and produced over 40 documentary films and features.

Almost every film project was a wonderful adventure, but the greatest of them all was filming the very first black & white documentary Saiany, so named after the immense mountain range located in Eastern Siberia. I had just completed my first year in Film School, when Vladimir Traveler, a good friend of mine telephoned me. He invited me to join his group of 10 in an unprecedented crossing of the eastern mountain country of Siberia on rafts. I agreed without hesitation, though I knew that the rivers there were quite wild and dangerous.

The Siberian journey took a little over two months. My task was to record it on 35-mm. film. In addition to food, rope, saws, axes and other instruments necessary for building fine strong rafts, we also carried in our backpacks 9000 feet of film, camera lenses, three battery packs (almost 10 pounds each) and a light tripod. The expedition turned out to be an exceptional adventure, but there were two events of such an extraordinary nature that I can’t resist but describe them on these pages.

The first event, an unprecedented episode, I call the ‘Sun’ Mystery. The second event, even more extraordinary was meeting Mysterious Monk that greatly influenced my entire life.

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