Gabriel Kozulan – Writer, Producer, Director at Gabriel Productions and Organizer of Australian Cultural and Charity events in Moscow

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What prompted you to come to Russia?

I was residing in Sydney just prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The state government was anticipating a huge influx of guests for the Games, so in order to alleviate the extra burden on the public transport system, asked any residents that could vacate the city, to please do so. I had just finished working on a film project and felt this would be a great chance for a break. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the outgoing return airfares were less than half price at the time. So I thought: ‘let’s do Russia’. As an Aussie, Russia had always seemed off the beaten track. The ‘Iron Curtain’ was long gone and the allure for adventure was simply too appealing; after all I could always resist everything but temptation.

So what were your first impressions, how did you spend your time?

To be brutally honest it was quite devastating, an absolute culture shock. I found myself totally unprepared for Moscow’s stark realities. Looking back, people were very weary of strangers, but I guess you can’t blame them, they were still recovering from ‘Perestroika’ – they were indeed some difficult times. But having just arrived from a different dimension as it were, I carried on like ‘Crocodile Dundee’ I’d walk around and greet everyone with “G’day, how are you?” Most people would ignore me like the village idiot, while some would confront me with statements like: “What do you want from me? and Do I know you!?” In Australia, you can go trekking in a rainforest, and if you meet people walking towards you, even a group, you’d exchange greetings with all of them and that’s considered normal; nonetheless, I’m grateful for the experience.

How did I spend my time? Well given that I had a six-month visa, I planned an extensive cultural itinerary. I acquainted myself with all the museums, galleries and theatres in Moscow and St. Pete. I travelled the ‘Golden Ring’ and visited many regions across Russia. I did the Trans-Siberian rail journey and saw a lot of Russia and was fascinated by the people, their history and culture. I can say the experience has helped broaden my views, which is an invaluable asset for a writer. 15 years on, Russia is an entirely different country, very westernized, very alive and very addictive. There is something about the place; it has a spirit that the west has sadly lost.

What do you do for a living?

I’ve been in the film industry for almost 30 years. I started off as an actor and stuntman in Australian and American films but now, I work as a writer, producer and director with my own production company. I also do freelance work as a ‘scriptwriter’ and or ‘script doctor’, which means restructuring storylines for 3rd party scripts that don’t evolve as needed. The freedom of the internet allows me to work with different production companies around the world. I also have my own projects, one of them being a large Australian based film called ‘Legends on Stone’. We’re presently arranging talks with Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman to engage their participation.

Fast forward to right now. You are married to a beautiful Russian girl, how did you meet Natasha?

I was working with Oscar award winning director Nikita Mikhalkov on the continuation of his ‘Burnt By The Sun’ saga, the 2nd & 3rd instalments. After an eight-month stint on set, I become good friends with one of the camera operators. One day he invited me and several of his friends over to celebrate the 23rd of February and Natasha just happened to be among those friends. We hit it off immediately and haven’t looked back since. It’s now been eight years. We’re together 24/7, we work together and play together. She’s a professional event organiser for Moscow’s ‘well to do’ and my better half.

You also run the Australian Cultural Centre, can you tell us what that is all about?

Having lived here for some time, I noticed that the Brits, the Irish and the Americans, all made their presence felt, with various events and festivals. So I thought: ‘Why can’t we Aussies do the same? I wanted to create a centre that could promote the true Spirit of Australia; establish an environment that was conducive to cultural exchange, which would unite and support our expat community. Unfortunately we still don’t have the desired physical centre, due to the financial outlay required. Even so, with the help of our partners, over the past 3 years we’ve created and personally funded numerous cultural and charitable events. You can view most of our activities on our website at ‘www.anaustralianodyssey.com’

Yes, I know you hold the annual Australian charity ball in Moscow, which is quite amazing; please tell me a bit more about that?

The Down Under Ball is our high-end event, so to speak. This is the 4th year that the Aussie community, their friends and our partners have rallied together to support the annual event, so as to raise money for needy Russian children. Personally, an event such as this is extremely taxing, it’s not only 6 months work preparing the event, but I also serve as the MC and sing classic Aussie rock songs during the course of the evening. Nevertheless, I see the Aussie Down Under Ball as a chance for all of us to give something back to the people and the city that has taken us in. I’d like to take the opportunity to once again express our gratitude to all our guests and partners for their on going support.

We are in the middle of a crisis, what’s your take on it?

Personally, I never give it any thought. People, and this is a quantum fact, people project into their lives what they predominantly think about. I’ve even given lectures on the subject. My philosophy on the matter is, always stay focused on the positive in any situation, know what it is you want in life and strive to attain it, live life to the fullest, love with abandonment, and never surrender your humanity.