Whenever members of the amateur Ukrainian group Molodyi Teatr London (Young Theatre) talk about their experiences as migrants, colleagues will exclaim “That’s incredible!”
If they tell people outside the group, the response is often: “You should write that down”.
So they did. The result is Bloody East Europeans, an English-language play that offers an irreverent and satirical take on the lives of East Europeans in the UK.
One of the writers, Uillem Blacker, a lecturer in East European culture at University College London, says there are few positive voices on immigration today, and the group hopes to “bring some light-heartedness by making it funny!”
One of the performers, Lilya Romanyshyn, points out that while it might seem that some Ukrainians are putting on a grotesque comedy for a few laughs, in fact they are highlighting the almost tragic reality of it all.
She says the show “tells about ourselves, our stories, who are ‘East Europeans’ and what kind of people we are”.
Lesya Liskevych, who came to England in 2003 as a student and now works as an analyst in banking, agrees: “A lot of people have a different perception of immigrants. The play shows that we’re normal people, just looking for a better life. We are all just the same; we’re just like you, and want to live.”
Another writer, Olesya Khromeychuk, who also moved here from Ukraine, in 2000, and is a UCL lecturer in Eastern European history at UCL, says the play attempts to ridicule how ‘East Europeans’ are often lumped together into one community. But it does matter where one comes from, she stresses.
A member of the audience told her that his experiences as an immigrant in Britain were “exactly that what you showed on stage”.
The group – formed in 2010 by both Ukrainians and non-Ukrainaians – plans to take the production to the Edinburgh Festival in August.
As well as creating entertainment and offering insight, Molodyi Teatr tries to create what any immigrant in the UK needs: community.
Yaroslav Tsyhan, a Ukrainian who has worked as a house painter in Britain for nearly two years, recalls that “it was very difficult when I had just arrived. I didn’t understand or speak much English, I didn’t know anyone. The first six weeks I changed jobs four times…”
He heard about the theatre, attended a rehearsal and joined the group: “This was very important, looking at an audience and being on stage. The theatre means a lot to me and here I feel at home.
“The most interesting thing for me are the people I meet. British people are very kind, always prepared to help. I have loved this country and its people.”
More information: www.molodyiteatr. wordpress.com/