A Mariupol theater troupe is back on stage with a homegrown Ukrainian play

by | Jul 21, 2022 | Top Stories

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Actors for the Donetsk Regional Drama Theater of Mariupol, on stage during a rehearsal for their play Cry of a Nation at the Uzhhorod municipal theater on July 14.

Laurel Chor for NPR

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Laurel Chor for NPR

UZHHOROD, Ukraine — On the darkened stage of a borrowed theater in the far west of Ukraine, Vira Lebedynska is rehearsing a difficult scene about losing a son. Though she doesn’t speak a single word, the spotlight shines on her face as her character struggles with grief and memories. “This scene really hits my heart,” says Lebedynska, 64, a classically trained singer and actress with Greta Garbo eyes and a sonorous voice. “And it’s about the story inside this scene.”

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Left: Actors and married couple Olena Bill and Igor Kytrysh on stage during the premiere of Cry of a Nation at the Uzhhorod municipal theater on July 16. Right: Actors of the Donetsk Regional Drama Theate rof Mariupol rehearse their play Cry of a Nation at the Uzhhorod municipal theater on July 14.

Laurel Chor for NPR

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Laurel Chor for NPR

The play, called Cry of a Nation, is about Vasyl Stus, the Ukrainian poet and writer who died in a Soviet labor camp in 1985, when he was just 47. The play, which runs through this weekend in Uzhhorod, is about what Stus sacrificed for Ukrainian culture. It also reflects what Ukrainians are sacrificing today to keep their culture safe from Russia’s violence. The theater troupe actors and its director were displaced from Mariupol, the southern port city that Russia destroyed and now occupies. Russian troops bombed Mariupol’s theater four months ago as hundreds of civilians, including children, sheltered inside. Those civilians had written the Russian word for children in giant letters on the ground outside. Many died.

An investigation by the human rights group Amnesty International concluded that Russia likely dropped two half-ton bombs on the theater, committing a war crime.

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Vira Lebedynska, an actress for the Donetsk Regiona …

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