Boise film lovers will see Ukraine through a very personal lens
Steven Wright, his wife and two daughters are safe in Boise; and while Ukraine is half a world away, it’s still home.
That’s where Wright spent the better part of two decades shepherding economic development projects across Ukraine. But then all hell broke loose.
And while they made their way to safety in Idaho, Wright does his best to get regular updates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Before you go to bed, what's the news? Wake up in the morning. What's the latest? And it does get just overwhelming. Just overwhelming,” he said. “So sometimes you just want to think tune out for a little bit. But then in the back of your head, it's like what's going on? And when you think about the human casualties. It's just unfathomable.”
On July 14, Wright will engage with audiences at The Flicks in Boise, which will screen the award-winning documentary “The Earth is Blue as an Orange.” A film within a film, the documentary turns its lens on a mother and her children and their particular love of movies, all while their day-to-day existence is in harm’s way.
Just prior to the event, Wright visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice.
“I'm guessing this evening will be something that attendees will not soon forget.”
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I’m George Prentice. Great movies have a tangible power that can move us to tears… laughter… certainly entertain us, but the best of the best inspire. I'm happy to report that a new documentary - intimate, sometimes playful, quite moving - will be screened this evening at The Flicks in Boise. I've been lucky enough to have seen the film. It's titled “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange.” It's a film within a film… a documentary. It chronicles a single mother and her four children who have a passion for film. They also happen to live in Ukraine. And this evening, a special guest will engage with the film's audience at The Flicks. And indeed, you're invited. But right now, let's invite that special guest to our program. Steven Wright spent the better part of two decades working on economic development projects in Ukraine. That's where he met his wife and together, they welcomed two daughters into the world. Steve, good morning.
STEVEN WRIGHT: Good morning, George.
PRENTICE: Up front, maybe you can share with our listeners about some of the projects that you worked on in Ukraine.
WRIGHT: It was quite fascinating. First went there in 1994 to kind of explore and there were just enormous changes going on. And honestly, I wasn't sure where I wanted to go. I had an opportunity for Brazil, but after visiting Ukraine, that's it. It all just set in stone. I'm going to go there and help with this whole transition. But around 2000, I started working with World Bank because I did have a finance background, and these were big loans that would come to the country of Ukraine. And then it was our job…we would win the contract… then put those loans into service, and almost all of it was agricultural development and again, working with farms that were ten, 20, 30,000 acres. So, we’re talking wheat, soy, sunflower. And again, it's still about what you were doing at that level was how do you really increase productivity? So, we had huge, huge farms. How do we really increase that productivity? So that's what we really focused on really the last five or six years. And I stopped doing it only a year and a half ago.
PRENTICE: Well, let's talk about that then…when hell was breaking loose. Talk to me about that moment when you said, “We've got to get our kids out of Ukraine.”
WRIGHT: Yeah, well, I was in a small city of Mariupol. And lo and behold, now I see it on the world news. It's my little city, which is now occupied by Russians. So, we have a large property there in the house that we built ourselves, which I can no longer go to. But at that point, when they decided to annex the Crimea, make it ours, and I'm only 50, 60 miles north of the Crimea and I was working in Crimea, had a business in the Crimea. We just knew that we had to do something. And I was getting a lot of advice from security folks, both Ukrainians and international, saying I've got to get out because I was still working on these international projects that at that point it was a Canadian sponsored project, again, with small farmers. And I had a high profile because I literally was known by thousands of small farmers because we're developing this whole economic project. So we knew we had to go literally two weeks after they got the permission from the Duma for to annex the Crimea. We just packed up and went to Kiev with the family and just found an apartment and said, okay, now are going to do. And at the end of the summer, I'd already decided I'm coming to Boise. I have family and Boise and bringing my daughters here and getting them into school. They didn't speak English.
PRENTICE: You told me once that it's difficult to listen to or turn on the news some days, but I've got to assume that you're also conflicted with that because you've got family and friends still in harm's way.
WRIGHT: Oh yeah. My wife's parents are there. We can't even communicate with today because the Internet is completely controlled by the Russians. So that has been toughest. But listening to the news, it has consumed us and that's very difficult. So, it's before you go to bed, what's the news? Wake up in the morning. What's the latest? And it does get just overwhelming. Just overwhelming. So sometimes you just want to think tune out for a little bit. But then in the back of your head, it's like what's going on? And when you think about the human casualties. It's just unfathomable what's happening.
PRENTICE: Steve I've only got about a minute left, but can you share with our listeners what you told me about your oldest daughter and one of her wishes?
WRIGHT: Yeah, my oldest daughter just graduated from Sage International and she wants to go back to Ukraine and she would really like to go back there and help out and do what she can. And of course, I'm trying to push her now. So, you've got to have some skills because if you're going to go back, bring something they need. And so, we're in that discussion now. But I'm going to try and encourage her as much as I can to continue with that.
PRENTICE: Well, this should be a pretty special evening. We should note that The Flicks is an underwriting supporter of Boise State Public Radio News. Steven Wright is going to engage with audiences before and after the film. And Steve, I'm guessing this evening will be something that attendees will not soon forget. And for now, I can only say thank you for giving us some time this morning.
WRIGHT: Thank you very much, George.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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