Debbie Deegan (above), founder of To Children With Love; two Russian orphans her charity has sought to help. Pics by Terry.
Terry McMahon writes:
Filmmakers are asked to do some dodgy stuff. People get excited by the idea of having their story captured on camera, their life and their legacy, their fantasies made real. Some folks are driven by ego, some by vanity, some by a desire for fame, and the really dumb ones think they might even rich out if it.
Having five insane kids, an exhausted missus, and a relentless bank-manager means I have to say no to most requests. But, sometimes you get asked to do something that transcends all the nonsense.
Someone proposes an ongoing story so complex, courageous and beautiful that you remember why you became a filmmaker in the first place.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get invited to Russia by the founder of ‘To Children With Love,’ Debbie Deegan.
Strolling into the airport with a small camera on my back, I had no idea what I was getting into but I didn’t question Debbie. She asked for trust and that was good enough for me.
I had gotten to know Debbie through her powerful ‘Ted Talk‘ but thinking you know somebody and spending twenty-four-hours a day with them for a week are not the same thing.
Debbie wanted some of the unfolding events captured. The days were going to be long and the engagements were going to be raw. We have a newborn miracle baby at home, which means I was already vulnerable to the profound fragility of children.
Steeling myself for the inevitable heartbreak of visiting similarly vulnerable miracle children in Russian orphanages, the truth is, I was very nervous. But I hid it because I was ashamed of my fear, ashamed that I might collapse like a cheap accordion at the first orphan child who looked at me.
In Dublin Airport, Debbie introduced me to her translator and longtime collaborator, Zhenya Chevrenenko.
A charismatic Russian with good looks and effortless charm, Zhenya was the kind of bloke every woman wants and every man wants to be. An incredible translator, Zhenya couldn’t have been nicer, in five languages, but the airport was eerie, with some of the staff at our boarding desk a little on edge.
Nobody else was wearing gloves and a surgical mask but this staff was. It made us feel a little less ridiculous for wearing the gloves and masks that Debbie insisted we wear. The larger world had yet to wake up to the insanity that was coming in the form of Covid-19.