Interview with Ferdinando Iannaccone and Yulia Musikhina

Interview with Ferdinando Iannaccone and Yulia Musikhina

Geplaats op zaterdag, 16 jun 2018, 20:02 door admin
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We talked to the winners of Amateur Latin event at Blackpool Festival 2017, Ferdinando Iannaccone and his wife Yulia Musikhina.

Performing and expressing myself though dancing is so much more important to me than technical skills

Congratulations! What a fantastic result, a dream come true.

[Ferdi]: I couldn't feel better about it. I remember dreaming about it, when I was a kid, so many times! It is actually crazy.

You have been waiting for this for a long time. You have been in the final very many times, but never on the first place.

[Ferdi]: The couples who were behind us may not be close to us at the moment but we still had that feeling that anything can happen. Before the prize presentation I was shaking like it was my first competition! It was unbelievable.

[Yulia]: You really never take for granted your good results. You always get upset with the bad ones.

[Ferdi]: And the bad result stays with you, for weeks, months

[Yulia]: The good result is gone, just like that! The next morning you wake up you think of what you can do next.

But wasn't winning obvious for you yesterday?

[Ferdi]: Our strength is that we never take the good result for granted. You should never assume that because at the UK Open you were 2nd, so here you should be 1st. Another things people assume that with success comes confidence. But it is not like that. Actually, more successful you are, more pressure you have.

You are expected to win?

[Ferdi]: Exactly.

[Yulia]: You put pressure on yourself. This is the main thing. The fact that others expect you to win is less of a problem because you can detach yourself from it. But because you expect it from yourself is difficult to manage. You are your own strictest and most critical judge. That judge inside you always says “You can do better!”. And he knows exactly what your limits are.

And that judge always knows what you did wrongly, even if others might have missed it...

[Yulia]: Yes, absolutely. You know and you judge yourself harder than anybody in the world. And that the one you actually have to go against. Fredi: I felt that to learn to let that go was really important in all the preparation towards this Blackpool for me. I knew that the only one who can screw this up is me! The only person who can damage me, is myself. So it was an important thing to stop thinking like that because it is damaging, it stays in your head and it gets in your way. When your head gets in your way, then you dance differently. You cannot connect with the people around you, you cannot connect with your partner. So that was the tough one.

[Yulia]: For us, Blackpool has always been the hardest one. We would get fantastic result in the Royal Albert Hall, and at the UK Open... but Blackpool was always a bit of a question for us, of how to approach it.


[Yulia]: It was always the most challenging competition for us in terms of results. Blackpool is the competition which defines the year in a way...

[Ferdi]: Every couple has their own favourite competition. As Amateurs, we made our first semi-final and the first final at the International. So we have lots of nice memories from it, it is a special place for us. I never felt as comfortable here in Blackpool. The floor is very big and we are not the tallest couple so we have to work with understanding where our strength is and how to use them to our best advantage in the circumstances.

How did get into dancing?

[Yulia]: I started when I was nine in Moscow, in Russia. My parents brought me to the dance studio because I was very active and probably I needed to vent that activity (laughing). I liked it. I had an option to be a Latin and Ballroom dancer or a ballet dancer. I was accepted to the Dance Academy. It is a prestigious dance academy in Moscow. They made me to choose and I had no doubts. I chose Latin. I danced in Moscow for few years, and then when I was eighteen I moved to London to dance with an English boy. We danced together for two years until he stopped dancing and then I started dancing with Ferdi. And we dance together for eleven years now.

[Ferdi]: When you say that out loud it sound really long! (laughing)

And you?

[Ferdi]: I started what I was eight years old, in Bologna. In Italy all the kids play football, and I was playing football as well. One day somebody opened a dance studio close to our house and my parents started to go there to classes. They forced me to go with them. I was very bored and did not like it at all. But they had this teacher who took care of the kids whose parents did the classes. So I started to do some steps and gradually started to feel some passion about it. I started dancing in Juniors with an Ukrainian girl. We were 3rd in Junior Blackpool actually. When we split I met Yulia.

[Yulia]: Actually I have to tell you the story of how we met.

[Ferdi]: You love it.

[Yulia]: I love this story! I was representing Russia dancing with the Russian boy.

I thought you danced with an English partner

[Ferdi]: It was much earlier. We first met each other long time ago while we were still Juniors.

[Yulia]: We were dancing Youth at the time. So I danced with a Russian boy and was living in Russia. For me Ferdi was just an Italian boy dancing with this Ukrainian girl, and we competed against each other. As you know Russian culture, we are very serious, very driven, very determined to succeed. When it comes to achieving a task, we are very focused. Imagine me, right before the semi-final, I am standing there, serious face, concentrating on breathing...

[Ferdi]: And remember, we were about fifteen years old at the time.

[Yulia]: And while I am concentrating, focused on the next round, he comes by and calls to me “Ciao bella!” I was like, who is he who dares to break my concentration! (laughing) I think I even shown him a finger or something like that (laughing). I was so angry.

[Ferdi]: Hormones, hormones everywhere! I guess you get passionate about dancing also because of the girls. It is a part of being a boy and be surrendered by so many pretty girls. It is true. I think many boys get into dancing because they have a chance to have a contact with girls. It is also a way to get more confident in real life.

[Yulia]: It is a shame that many boys look at dancing as a girly thing. I feel this is an issue in many countries, many cultures really.

[Ferdi]: This is sad. Also the fact that boys and girls must touch each other while dancing is sometimes seen as a problem in some cultures. For instance, you can see that a lot in Asia where parents will not allow their kids to dance because of that.

[Yulia]: And you did not let me to finish my story! Anyway, years passed, I was living and dancing in England and then my partner decided to stop so I found myself looking for a new one. One day my teacher called me and said he has an Italian boy for me. So I thought to myself, I only know three good Italian boys, and I know one of them is definitely a no! The other two I can try with, but definitely not the arrogant one I remembered from Blackpool! But they talked both of us to try, and we tried together at the UK Open. I came with an attitude, obviously. I was horrible.

[Ferdi]: I was laughing!

[Yulia]: I was like, show me what you can do! I did not like him, I did not think it went well.

[Ferdi]: For me it was OK.

[Yulia]: I obviously prejudged him and I wasn't fair. But it was a right time for both of us, we were matched in height and age, both under 21 so I reluctantly agreed.

[Ferdi]: It was a right time for us, we had a chance to go through the Under 21, Rising Star and grow and mature together as a couple. After two months of dancing together we came up 2nd in Under 21 here in Blackpool. We lost one mark to the 1st place...

[Yulia]: It is not just that one time we lost by one mark

[Ferdi]: I also have a funny story. When we started dancing together we had a lesson with a teacher who was Yulia's teacher before. When we finished, he left for the airport and then called Yulia to say, run away from that boy, he is terrible, he is awful!

[Yulia]: Yes, he said, this boy is not worth of you. Turn him down! But then I said to him, is there any other choice?? Do you have anybody better for me? Are the Bryan Watson's of this world waiting there for me to dance with them?! I would love that but it is not happening. Everything has its place and time and I am happy with that choice I made then.

[Ferdi]: We have so many stories like this because I was probably not the most talented Youth dancer...

[Yulia]: That's not true!

[Ferdi]: No, it is probably true, at the time. But I think that with a lot of work I put into it, and having swallowed a lot of negative comments... and I've heard lots of things said about myself, anything you could have imagined.

[Yulia]: He is very strong.

[Ferdi]: In a way, I am tougher because of that. Nothing can break me now.

Oh, that's interesting! What has been said to you which was the hardest thing to hear?

[Ferdi]: One of the famous teachers told me to stop dancing and wasting my own time as I would never get anywhere in this industry.

[Yulia]: And winning yesterday just proved him wrong!

[Ferdi]: Yes, it felt fantastic.

Have you ever reminded him about this?

[Ferdi]: Yes, once. He did not even remember it as it happened years ago, when I was fifteen or sixteen. But for me, it stayed there in my mind. It stuck. You know it touches you, it hurts when you are passionate about something, and the teacher says you better quit as you are cr*p at it.

Do you think that some teachers in this industry say things too easily, without thinking how much one word can affect their students?

[Ferdi]: Absolutely!

[Yulia]: You are absolutely right about it. There is a lack of professionalism there, lack of university education where you can learn the teaching techniques, psychology, how to speak to students. Some people have it naturally, but some are not aware of consequences.

Are you saying that you can be a great dancer but it doesn't mean you will be a good teacher?

[Ferdi]: That's for sure. They are two totally different things. Some people do not have teaching skills at all. They may have tons of knowledge but they will not be able to pass it on, because they do not have teaching skills.

Yet lots of couples choose their teachers based on what they see on the floor or based on their past achievements as dancers. Do you think this is wrong?

[Yulia]: Well, you never know

[Ferdi]: You just have to be careful of how you teach, say, a fifteen year old or a little kid.

[Yulia]: You have or realise of what you say may stay with them and affect them in the future. Both ion a bad way and good way. In the past have been labelled “too skinny” and it made me really angry that I had to explain this is my metabolism, I am not keeping any diets! That makes you develop a certain stereotype, and you live with it every day. You start thinking that you should move a certain way or dress a certain way, because it is in your head that you are “too skinny”.

How do you deal with that sort of label?

[Yulia]: Ideally, you learn to grow a thicker skin. You learn to ignore these comments. You may come across as rude sometimes, but you stand your ground.

[Ferdi]: Some people are more confident, some people are more insecure. We are insecure generally, we have to work on our brain a lot, we have to mentally prepare of how to approach this and that competition. How to deal with stress, how to relieve stress...

Yesterday, watching the final round, I could see that you were giving 100%. You were there to win.

[Ferdi]: Recently we started working with our coaches on studying dance as a form of expression from inside out, as a story telling. There is a lot to understand about how to express emotions, intention...

[Yulia]: There is a lot of work on personal level, going back to your childhood. You learn things about yourself, who you are, what your strength is, what your weaknesses are and how to deal with them. I think we all have our insecurities.

[Ferdi]: It is normal to feel fear when you are out there or feel insecure about things, but what matters is how you deal with that. When I was in Youth I didn't get it, but once you are at an age that you can understand so many more things, your body moves differently and your expression comes out different, you can touch people on a different level. You can tell a story with your movement.

[Yulia]: Of course, you can still get affected by various things. But you learn to deal with that.

Does it still happen?

[Ferdi]: Of course. Everybody has an opinion. After being so many years in this industry you know people will have their opinion. That's why I tried to stay away from it yesterday, even if people meant well saying thing like “it's your night, you're going to win”

[Yulia]: But how can you go through six rounds and feel “I am going to win”, it can kill you.

Do you still need to give it 100% in every round, even in the first two, three rounds?

[Yulia]: Yes, we do.

[Ferdi]: Do you really want to watch the tape later, of you dancing, and think you looked terrible?

[Yulia]: And you always have to satisfy that judge inside yourself.

[Ferdi]: If you have to do the six rounds, you have to do it the best you can. Of course, we have a plan. We will take the first round easier, perhaps less intense but, for me, the key is to do something which entertains me because then I have a chance to entertain people. Otherwise if I don't put any effort into it, how can I make people love it?

[Yulia]: With the competition like Blackpool your brain gets bored. Your body gets tired but it is not the worst part. When you let your brain to get bored you'll never ever survive that competition. If you let your mind wondering idly, it shows.

So how do you approach all these rounds?

[Ferdi]: You choose something you concentrate on before it, like a music, or stress relief. We have a special warmup dedicated to each of those things. We are very organised, we like to plan for all this. We feel this is part of the success. We plan everything.

Which one of you is the planner?

[Yulia]: I have to live according to the plan. I am Russian (laughing).

[Ferdi]: I have to learn that. I am Italian (laughing).

[Yulia]: But Ferdi likes to change choreography, he likes interpreting. He likes to check what is going on around, he likes to play a little bit. Then he sees my eyebrows raising, “off plan, off plan!!” (laughing).

Then he can start to worry what is going to happen after this dance?

[Yulia]: No, I never give him a hard time after the round.

[Ferdi]: She will give me hard time after the competition (laughing).

[Yulia]: When did I give you any hard time?

[Ferdi]: No, no, she is actually very nice. Even at practice. She never complains. More often I complain.

[Yulia]: We have a plan for this now as well. There is a day and time when you can complain and spill it all out. Then he spills it all out, and then that's it, done!

Doesn't she sound a bit like a control freak?

[Ferdi]: She used to be very controlling, but she soften up a little bit while living in Italy. You cannot plan for everything there because nothing works (laughing).

[Yulia]: Or working in China! That teaches you flexibility

[Ferdi]: You have to be really adaptable.

[Yulia]: The worst are delays. Nothing ever goes according to schedule.

[Ferdi]: Working in China teaches you patience.

[Yulia]: In Italy as well. It is quite crazy, no rules.

I remember driving in Italy, it was crazy. By the way, who drives?

[Ferdi]: I do

[Yulia]: I do not drive. I cannot even ride a bicycle properly. I can do turns while dancing, but I cannot turn while riding a bike, I can do straight. That's it (laughing).

[Ferdi]: I bought her a bicycle when she was eighteen or nineteen. She just came over to Italy. She never owned a bike before.

[Yulia]: He is still teaching me. I am awful (laughing).

What do you like about each other?

[Ferdi]: She is a rollercoaster of emotions. It is never boring being with her. She is very honest, 99% of the time she tells you the truth. I like that about her.

[Yulia]: He makes me feel so secure. I can be who I really am all the time, without trying to be somebody else. He likes me for who I am. No matter how bad the situation is, he will be there for me with support. And that's priceless.

In dancing or privately?

[Yulia]: You know, there is always a mixture. Your personal life gets affected by professional, and vice versa. Your personality is reflected in your dancing.

So you are not trying to separate your private life from your dancing?

[Ferdi]: At some point you have to. You have to define what work is but at the same time you cannot pretend to treat your wife at practice like a stranger. I cannot fool myself that much.

[Yulia]: Of course you cannot totally separate it. I am still his wife. But when I am with him, say at home, is one thing, but when we are at practise, it is another. Another part of "me" is working there.

[Ferdi]: You wear another hat, another mask. Right now I am a dancer, I am in that role.

[Yulia]: You are still the same person, but you use that other part of your personality to be in character suitable for the situation, for the role.

I understand, that's why I was surprised when you said earlier that you cannot separate your private life from your professional life

[Yulia]: Well, you cannot separate yourself from yourself. It is still the same person in both situations. So from this point of view, you cannot. Of course, you approach different situations differently. If he is speaking to me at home he asks nicely, while at practice it is a demand. He always gives an example of a football team. You have to be direct, sharp, brief. But if he tried that at home... (laughing)

[Ferdi]: At dance practice, when you want to be the most efficient, you use short commands, you say “do that” while at home it will be “can you please do that?”. But there is no much difference in how we behave towards each other. That's why it sounds to me a bit of a cliché when couples say they separate private life and their professional lives.

[Yulia]: You have to find a way which works best for you.

[Ferdi]: We actually understood better of how to relate to each other because of practice. And that's life too. For example, we noticed that sometimes we would have a little fight in dancing because we have not explained to each other what we felt. So instead of explaining for instance that you felt the timing was off between both of you, you kept saying “you are pulling me, you are too slow, you are too fast” etc. You demanded something from the other person, instead of expressing your feeling. You know, psychology says there are four main emotions: anger, happiness, sadness and fear. For majority of people two emotions play together, one fuels the other. For example, anger is a secondary emotion. I go sad and then angry. When I fear, I go for anger. Whenever I feel happy, I go to sad straight away.

[Yulia]: You go nostalgic.

[Ferdi]: People do it all the time. Once you realise why you get angry, you can work with it. Why do I feel this rage? I realise I am irritated with the hotel room here or crowds of people because I am scared of the competition! I think paying attention to these things make the relationships work.

[Yulia]: I actually go from sad or fear to happy, I make sarcastic comment. When I feel really terrified, I try to make a joke about it, and it makes me really good. Sometimes it comes across strange and people do not reciprocate. It is important how you word things. You can say anything you want as long as you lay it out properly. If you say things in an accusatory way, people react with accusation back.

How else would you say it?

[Yulia]: If you start with "I feel that..." or "It hurts me..." people react positively because it doesn't feel like a personal attack.

[Ferdi]: We also realised that after eleven years together we started to take for granted that we understand each other, and understand how each other felt. But it may not be the truth. She doesn't have to know exactly how I feel, unless I explain it to her.

Communication is the key.

[Yulia]: And there is a mix of countries, and cultures and mentalities. There is a language barrier. But we are lucky, because deep down we are very similar.

I have to ask this question: what don't you like about your partner?

[Ferdi]: Anytime we have a major competition she has to have a new dress designed. So she talks about these dresses for hours and hours... (laughing). Until I have to say, it is enough, I am fed up with dresses and designs. I am not really a fashion type of guy. That's the worst!

[Yulia]: He sometimes retreats into himself and doesn't communicate. I hate that.

[Ferdi]: Yes, I go silent when I am upset, or about to snap. I think it is a way of protecting myself.

[Yulia]: He likes his privacy. There are times when he needs to be alone. But again, this is about communicating for me. If I don't know if he needs this time, how I am supposed to react. It is about learning things about each other. But if he is open about it, tells me he needs this time for himself, I am OK with it and do my stuff. He needs time off.

And you?

[Yulia]: I do too. But not as much. I rather cuddle to him than take a walk on my own.

[Ferdi]: If something troubles me I like to take time off to think about it. In this aspect we are very different.

You know, women are from Venus and men are from Mars...

[Yulia]: Yes, it is a bit like this. If there is something which bothers me, I don't want him to resolve it for me, I just need his support, just to understand all the drama and be there for me.

Is that the case with this dress designing drama?

[Yulia]: This year before Blackpool it was a disaster! I was going crazy. I was looking for help from everybody. And he already had enough of this drama by then. Thankfully, at the end, I was very pleased with my dress!

[Ferdi]: It was beautiful.

[Yulia]: Vesa did a fantastic job helping me to decide. He is really an artist and he understands us. He was a dancer himself and now he is a designer, he's got a really good feeling and understanding of dresses.

Do you design your own dresses?

[Yulia]: Not exactly. It is a collaboration. I start with an idea what I want. Then he gives his honest opinion of whether he likes it or not. Sometimes he would come up with the design. I like a dress with movement. Sometimes I draw what type of dress I want. It depends. It really is a nice collaboration. We both have an opinion and work together for the common goal. He wants me to have a good dress and I want to have a good dress (laughing).

And for Ferdi?

[Ferdi]: I have a sponsor from China. And this guy is really, really great. They have a real clothes empire in China, five stories shop. They are really successful. They have a great team, whatever you ask for, they always say yes!

How many teachers or coaches do you have?

[Ferdi]: We have a number of teachers and a few who are there all the time for us. Of course, we have teachers we go for lessons to, but there are three or four who are constant in our life.

You are now in the top of Amateurs but you will be moving to Professionals at some point. Tell me what the difference is, for you, between the Professionals and Amateurs?

[Yulia]: I think until you actually become a Professional, you cannot say. You look up to them of course.

[Ferdi]: For me, it will be fun because I know all these people who are Professionals now. We have been in the finals together, we are good friends. It will be fun to compete together again.

[Yulia]: Riccardo and Stefano are a bit older than us and you can see the skill and wealth of experience in their dancing. It shows. It comes with time, you cannot buy it. They are league of their own.

[Ferdi]: Yes, when we turn Professional we won't be even thinking of beating these two. They are untouchable! DS:p What do you value in dancing most?

[Ferdi]: I learned not to focus on things which I cannot control. I do not think of winning or concentrate on the job. My priority is to do the best job in expressing myself through my dancing. Performing and expressing myself though dancing is so much more important to me than technical skills. It makes it real for me. I don't like to see couples focusing on technique only.

[Yulia]: I will say what I don't like. I don't like when couples try to please their teachers and do only what their teachers say. I understand that it makes them feel safe. But I believe that more of your own personality is put into dancing, more real and honest it is and more value is has. You should have an opinion about your dresses and your style. It then becomes unique. I remember growing up in Russia, I was born in USSR, and people were not asked for opinions or expected to have opinions. People were expected to be the same, and it is something still deep inside me.

[Ferdi]: It is this mindset many people share in Russia.

[Yulia]: It is not good. People do not accept rebels, it is not fitting with the structure and system. We all have it to a certain point, but people from Russia and China have more. And my point is, do have an opinion, have your own free thinking, be different, question things.

[Ferdi]: When you have a chance to become part of the history of Blackpool Festival, you want to do it in your own way. You want to be able to watch your video in the future and be able to say: yes, this is exactly how I wanted to do it.

[Yulia]: Of course you are affected by the teachers who gave you the information. But you do not have to be a parrot! Take all the opinions and knowledge you learned from others, and make something new out of it. Something which is your own.

What do you do outside of dancing? Do you have friends?

[Ferdi]: Yes, of course! We have very different types of friends. We have been in Dancing with the Stars in Italy so we met various people there and we have a football player friend... we go on holiday together...

[Yulia]: But to be honest lately we did not have much time

[Ferdi]: For the last two, three years we have been very busy. it was crazy. We also have friends in the dancing world.

But you compete agaist each other as well?

[Yulia]: Yes, and it is sometimes a bit of a problem. Can you be 100% honest with everybody...?

[Ferdi]: You are not really free to say whatever you want to say. So it is hard to be friends on a deeper level.

[Yulia]: Of course we are friendly with very many people, we can go out with them and have fun.

[Ferdi]: One of my closest friends is Stefano do Fillippo. We can say whatever we want to each other.

[Yulia]: And this will never get repeated or used against us. It is really a pure friendship.

[Ferdi]: He is like my older brother (laughing).

How do you like to spend your free time?

[Ferdi]: She sleeps a lot (laughing)

[Yulia]: I like to draw, I like things with beauty in them. Probably when we stop dancing I will go to an Art College to do drawing. I love it.

[Ferdi]: We like to spend time with family as well. As much as we can.

Which family?

[Ferdi]: Mine, in Italy. But of course also with Yulia's parents.

[Yulia]: When we have some extra time we usually try to dedicate it to the family. Because he has a sister and nefews. These kids need your time. Of course, they are not our kids, but they are kids and they need us as well. We love them.

Any plans to have your own kids?

[Yulia]: Sure, but it needs to be a right time. I can't wait to have a kid but not now.

One or more?

[Ferdi]: Kids, more than one

[Yulia]: Mmmm... I don't know (laughing).

A boy or a girl?

[Ferdi]: A boy

[Yulia]: A girl

So it must be at least two (laughing)!

[Yulia]: I believe that my life wouldf not be complete without my own children. You can have a career and all the success in the world, but I would like to have a life as well.

What would you do once you stop competing?

[Ferdi]: I like to play guitar, I like to play football. I want to keep doing what I like. I probably would do some studies. When I started dancing with Yulia I enrolled to the University to study Forensic Science. But I did not finish the inital course. I would like to pick it up.

[Yulia]: For me, dancing takes so much energy and is so much fun that I would feel empty without it...

Favourite type of movie?

[Yulia]: Psychological thrillers

What language do you use between each other?

[Yulia]: Mix of Italian and English. Sometimes I will throw in some Russian words (laughing).

Ferdi, how is your Russian?

[Ferdi]: After a week in Russia, I can easily pick up odd words and have a general understanding of the conversation. But I don't speak.

[Yulia]: If he needs to, he can communicate. He spoke with my Grandma!

Where do you live?

[Yulia]: In Hong Kong.

So you are an Italian-Russian couple, representing USA, and living in China?

[Ferdi]: Yes!

[Yulia]: We go to US and dance there but we keep returning to Asia because there is so much interesting things happening there. It is convenient to be around Hong Kong because everything is there. The teachers are there, the work is there. It is good.

[Ferdi]: Right now, it is a great place to be. It is a very vibrant city.

[Yulia]: I love it.

[Ferdi]: I takes energy out of you but it is fantastic.

[Yulia]: When you are young, it is perfect.

[Ferdi]: You can do hundereds of things in one day.

[Yulia]: Our gym is right across the street, two blocks down there is a studio, a hairdresser and a nail salon. And the shops... Whatever you want you can find and do in 5 seconds! You cannot manage that anywhere else in the world.

Do you consider yourselves at home there, are you the citizens of the world now?

[Ferdi]: I am very much Italian and she is very Russian. But I feel I understand the Asian culture very well. I spent a lot of time there. I feel very well there. But I am still an Italian... Nobody can take that away from me.

[Yulia]: I don't like labels...

[Ferdi]: Actually, me neither. But I can feel I am very Italian.

I understand you are in a hurry to catch a plane?

[Yulia]: Yes, I am going to Madrid. Two of my best friends live in Spain. He is Italian, she is Ukrainian and she is about to give birth. And I am going to be a Godmother! I am going to work a little bit, stay with them and be for her when she has a baby.

[Ferdi]: Yulia was recently a Godmother to one of my nieces.

[Yulia]: Everybody wants me to be a Godmother! (laughing). It is nice.

Are you a religious person?

[Yulia]: Yes, I am, but not practising. I don't believe in going to church every Sunday. I don't need any institution to tell me how to believe in God. But I have the faith. I wear my Russian cross. Religion is part of me, I grew up in Russia and people are very religious there. But once you leave the country and you look at it from outside you start noticing things. I tell you a story. When we go married we did it in the City Hall. It was very low key, just a Registry Office, a dinner for 10 people, no fuss. Few years later, Ferdi's sister gave birth to a baby and wanted me to be a Godmother. But in Italy, when you are married but not married in a church you are now allowed to be a Godparent!

[Ferdi]: You are also baptised in an Orthodox church...

[Yulia]: It did not matter because they accepted baptism from the Russian church. They just needed the certificate and that was fine. But the lack of church marriage was a problem. If we were not married at all but lived together it would be allowed. It doesn't make sense.

[Ferdi]: So we had to get married in church. We had to attend this course, and have things explained to us by a priest e.g. how to be together. But we were already married for 10 years!

[Yulia]: It was strange!

[Ferdi]: But it shown me how similar Orthodox and Catholic religions are. It was quite interesting to learn that as I did not know.

[Yulia]: In the end the priest made us sign the paper which said that since we are going to be married soon, we would raise our kids as Catholics (laughing). Not Orthodox.

[Ferdi]: We believe people should be able to choose what they want. Of course, you get influence by the people or country you grow in. In Italy it is natural to become Catholics, in Russia - Orthodox, but in Hong Hong there are buddists, atheists...

[Yulia]: It really is weird that we needed to sign the paper to promise to encourage our kids to be Catholics while we believe they will be free to choose their own.

I will let you go now. Thank you very much for an interesting chat and good luck for the future!