By Ingrid Koss
Ana Lavrukhina (outgoing Production Assistant), Ella Aleksienkova (incoming Production Assistant), and Albina Nikitina (Russian Media Producer) at a lunch to celebrate the transitions in the Russian production team.
In 2000, Julia Sergienko was dreaming about a Christian television program for Russian children. Married to Leonid, Square One’s Russian media producer in Moscow, Julia had access to the expertise and equipment of a recording studio… but the studio was for radio, not television. In spite of Leonid’s caution that they had no experience with television, Julia—with more ideas in a month than most people have in a lifetime—kept planning the details of the new program. She even knew that the main character’s name would be “Ella”.
And then she met a real life Ella.
Ella Aleksienkova was already involved in radio ministry at The Bible Today, Square One’s Ukrainian project in Zhovti Vody, Ukraine. Ella also had a vision for a Christian children’s program because there was nothing of the kind on the air in either Russia or Ukraine.
“Coincidentally”, Julia and Ella met at a Christian Camp and quickly realized that they shared the same vision: to produce a children’s puppet show for television. Once the combined creativity and passion of Julia and Ella took root, Leonid knew that it was time to get with the program—literally!
Ella’s Backyard began as a radio program, but right from the start, Julia and Ella knew it would soon be a television program. That was the vision God had given both of them, and they knew they could reach many more children for Christ that way. From 2000 until 2016, Ella was the main scriptwriter, a puppeteer, the voice of multiple characters (including “Ella”), and a video editor. She was also responsible for translating and dubbing the Russian programs into Ukrainian.
Ella the producer, with “Ella” the puppet in 2002; Ella the puppeteer, surrounded by puppets on the set of Ella’s Backyard in 2008; Julia, Albina, Albina’s son Timothy, Leonid, and Ella representing Ella’s Backyard at an International Television Competition in Moscow in 2011.
Today, Ella’s Backyard is produced in Winnipeg and the project is led by Julia’s daughter, Albina Nikitina. This spring, as Albina was looking for a new production assistant, she became aware that Ella would soon be arriving in Winnipeg under the CUAET program (Canadian Ukrainian Authorization for Emergency Travel). At the right time and place, the right person for the job was on her way.
“It is God’s plan and God’s miracle that Ella is back!” says Albina. “Her creativity and experience are a great asset to our project.”
We are pleased to welcome—re-welcome—Ella Aleksienkova to the team of Ella’s Backyard.