(Sarah Bahr’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/12; via Pam Green.)
The group recently arrived in New York to perform “Mom on Skype,” first staged in April in Lviv, at the Irondale Center this weekend.
In a converted Sunday school space in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn on Monday, eight children, who recently arrived from Ukraine, gathered on a pair of risers and broke into song.
Hanna Oneshchak, 12, on the accordion, accompanied the other seven as they sang a Ukrainian folk song, “Ta nema toho Mykyty,” about a man who decides to leave the country to seek better work, but then looks to the mountains and, struck by their beauty, changes his mind.
“Whatever the grief we have,” they sang in Ukrainian, “I won’t go to the American land.”
“We share our emotions with Americans,” Anastasiia Mysiuha, 14, said in English. And, she said, she hopes that audience members will “better understand what’s happening in Ukraine.”
The show, which will be performed in Ukrainian with English subtitles, is a series of seven monologues about family separation told from the perspective of children. Written by contemporary writers from Lviv, the true stories were inspired by the mass exodus from Ukraine in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. At that time, many men and women went to other countries to work so they could provide for their families back home.
“Mom on Skype” was first staged in a warehouse-turned-bomb shelter in Lviv, in western Ukraine, in April, just two months after the Russian invasion began. There it was directed by an arts teacher turned active-duty Ukrainian soldier, Oleg Oneshchak, who is the father of two of the children in the play: Hanna and Oleksii, 7. It was one of the few cultural events to take place in Ukraine at that time.
“Lots of people were crying when we did it in Ukraine,” said Khrystyna Hniedko, 14, one of the performers.
Now, the children, ages 7 to 14, are performing for audiences in Brooklyn this weekend.
The idea for the visit came about when Jim Niesen, artistic director of the Irondale Center, the home of the nonprofit Irondale Ensemble Project theater company, saw a photo essay in The New York Times in late April about the performance in Ukraine.
“I was so inspired by them,” Niesen said in an interview at the theater this week. “There was this horrific war going on, and here they were, doing a play.”
He and the theater’s executive director, Terry Greiss, tracked down Oneshchak on Facebook Messenger and proposed an idea: Would he and the children consider bringing the show to BrooklynImage