Obituary: Sian Thomas

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The Independent Online
Judith Sian Thomas, film-maker, cartoonist, designer: born London 11 July 1956; married 1991 Sasha Vlasov; died Mariinsk, Siberia 24 June 1993.

SIAN THOMAS was first introduced to me by a television producer I had approached about a film on Bulgarian music, writes Joe Boyd. The film was never made, but Sian lived up to her billing as an expert enthusiast on Eastern Europe. She accompanied me at her own expense to the Koperivshtitsa Festival in Bulgaria in 1986 and her fluent Russian and contacts were instrumental in establishing a relationship with Bulgaria which has produced numerous discs and concert tours since then.

I was dazzled by her adventurousness and enthusiasm and willingness to take risks. Nominally a hard-working graphic designer, she would put her job aside to work on any film project in what was fast ceasing to be the Soviet Union. Her adventures while making Red Empire included being run out of Uzbekistan by the KGB, while a documentary on the Moscow police had her venturing permit-less into areas of Moldova still closed to foreigners.

I attended her fairy-tale wedding to a Russian film-maker in 1991. It took eight hours to make and eat three courses (due to the shortage of crockery) and the Welsh/Russian army of guests wandered dreamlike in and out of the woods outside Moscow like the cast of a play. Russians were fascinated by her and her fluent grasp of their language. She settled into a life in Moscow constantly interrupted by adventures: to Astrakhan to make a documentary about caviar for the BBC; to St Petersburg for the highly praised Letter from St Petersburg on Channel 4 during the winter of 1991-92; and finally to China to start the bicycle journey that led to her death.

She gave and asked freely. As I was leaving for Moscow last December, I rang to ask her what she needed. 'An aluminium sink]' she demanded. It was duly produced and the champagne, caviar and blinis were brought out in celebration.