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From Russia with love

By Chris Connors – The Cape Breton Post

As information officer for the Celtic Colours International Festival,
Dave Mahalik is used to handling media requests by journalists from
across the globe.

In each of the past nine years, people from various parts Canada,
Scotland, the U.S. and Australia have been among the 100 or so
reporters and broadcasters who come to Cape Breton to cover the
nine-day celebration of the island’s living Celtic culture.

But this year, one person, a writer from a Russian-based magazine
devoted to the British lifestyle, stood out more than others.

“It just came from out of the blue,” Mahalik said Thursday. “It’s
interesting. We’ve had people from all over the states – The New York
Times, the L.A. Times, from down in Atlanta – but it was neat to see
someone from Russia. It’s really cool.”

Perhaps even stranger than Daria Kulesh’s mere presence at the festival
is the fact that the Moscow-born deputy editor-in-chief of British
Style is a diehard Celtic music enthusiast who has been yearning to
come to Celtic Colours for years.

Kulesh, 23, says she first fell in love with Celtic music 10 years ago
after catching the Scottish band Beggar’s Row perform at a local pub.

“It was a culture shock,” she said of that first taste of Celtic music,
adding that one of the band’s songs, the traditional Irish tune The
Lonesome Boatman, had such an impact on her that she wrote down the
lyrics and practised singing it alone until a friend later coaxed her
to perform it a house party.

Soon she was acting as a translator for any Scottish band that was
travelling through Moscow, striking up friendships with most of the
performers, including Brian OhEadhra, who happens to be among the
performers at this year’s festival.

During a visit to OhEadhra’s home in Inverness, Scotland, three years
ago, she came across Alistair MacLeod’s collection of short stories,
The Lost Salt Gift of Blood.

“I started reading the book in a park and I just absolutely got carried
away with it. It’s how basically I found out that Cape Breton existed.”

From that point on, it seemed like she couldn’t escape the island she’d never even heard of three weeks earlier.

No sooner had she returned to Moscow than she was asked to accompany
The Russian Cossack State Dance Company to the Halifax International
Tattoo. While she was too busy to travel to Cape Breton, she did the
next best thing, meeting her current boyfriend, former Cape Bretoner,
Adrian Buckley.

“To meet someone who was into Celtic music and who was my age was
pretty funny on its own,” recalled Buckley, a student at Dalhousie
University who lived in Cheticamp until he was 11, “but to meet someone
from Russia of all places who liked Celtic music, that was really
bizarre.”

Now Kulesh, who fronts her own six-piece Celtic band, Brownie Bridge,
back in Moscow, can’t wait to spread the word about Celtic Colours.

“Basically
what I’m here for is just to let people know that Cape Breton is here,
that it’s on the map, that it’s a wonderful place and that the best
time to visit is during the Celtic Colours International Festival,” she
said. “I want everybody to make the same discovery that I did.”

Copyright © 2005 Cape Breton Post

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