Michael Palin ’emotional’ as he reunites with Ukrainian he first met 30 years ago

The Monty Python star first met writer Vadim Castelli in Ukraine in the early 1990s.

13 March 2022

Sir Michael Palin has been reunited with a Ukrainian man who he first interviewed on one of his travel shows 30 years ago.

The Monty Python star first met writer and film-maker Vadim Castelli while travelling through Ukraine in the early 90s.

At the time, the comedian turned travel writer was attempting to travel from the south to the north pole while covering as much land as possible. His experience during the journey would later be turned into 1992 TV show Pole to Pole.

He then met Mr Castelli again 15 years ago when they discussed what his vision of Ukraine would look like in 15 years’ time.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Vadim Castelli shared his hopes for how Ukraine would look in the present day 15 years ago (James Manning/PA)

“Ukraine, by that time, should be much more sovereign,” Mr Castelli said.

“It should be much more independent and much more prosperous. Hopefully, it will be a real part of the European family.”

The pair were reunited on BBC’s Sunday Morning show after the show’s researchers tracked Mr Castelli down to his home on the outskirts of Kyiv.

“I feel very emotional,” Sir Michael said.

“I’m just so, so sorry about the dreadful circumstances and my heart goes out to you and your family, and everyone around you in Ukraine.”

Sir Michael told Mr Castelli that he was “so glad” to speak to him.

He said: “Well, these are terrible circumstances and I’m so glad to talk to you actually.

“We talked in good times and it’s great that we can talk again in bad times, because there has to be some sort of communication between us, between the nations, between the countries supporting Ukraine is so, so important.

“I think that the the worst thing that can happen is that the communications end and the Russian block all our ability to talk to you and your people.”

The pair spoke about what more the UK and its allies could do for Ukraine.

Monty Python 50th anniversary
Michael Palin shot to fame as part of Monty Python (PA)

Mr Castelli said that demanding that the west creates a “no-fly” zone or immediately stops buying Russian gas and oil is “unrealistic”.

However, he said that Ukraine can continue to ask the west for weapons.

“What we can hope for now is just more weapons so that we can keep on resisting”, he said.

He said that he could leave Ukraine if he wanted to because he is over the military fit age of 60.

“I am 64,” he said.

“Legally, nothing can stop me and I can try to leave the country. It is not an easy way in terms of logistics but I can do that, I can take my wife.

“I would not want to, at least not for now, because I feel like the reason why Putin could not take over Ukraine after two or three days as everyone predicted is because nobody on the Russian expected the Ukrainians to resist with such heroism, and I just have to be a part of my nation.”

He told Sir Michael: “Thank you so much Michael, it was such a pleasure seeing you. Have I told you you haven’t changed since I saw you last?”

Sir Michael replied that he had “got a bit older” since their last meeting. “It says on my birth certificate.”

He added that he found it “inspiring” to hear from Mr Castelli again.

“It’s great to see you, and I feel your strength there, which is important”, Sir Michael said.

“You’re clearly not looking defeated, you’re not giving up – despite the awful circumstances and that’s pretty inspiring. I know that we will speak again.”

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