For Ours and Yours

4 April 2022

We talk to Nadiia Moroz-Olshanska, president of the Mass Spectacle Foundation, organisers of the International Ukrainian Theatre Festival “East-West”.

Justyna Skalska: Two years ago the pandemic forced your festival to move online. The plans for this year’s event, ninth in the festival’s history, have been thwarted by Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine, and ongoing the war preventing theatre ensembles from travelling to Kraków…

Nadiia Moroz-Olshanska: That’s right – and the worst thing is that no one has any idea how long it will go on for. Who knows – perhaps Russian troops will withdraw tomorrow? Either way, we are already seeing a humanitarian crisis, and the scale is still unknown. Together with the Dr. Henryk Jordan Youth Centre, co-organisers of the festival, we decided to postpone the event. We cannot be certain whether the actors due to perform on Kraków’s stages will be able to travel to the city in August. We were hoping to present spectacles by theatres from L’viv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and Mariupol…

Have you been in contact with them?

We haven’t heard anything from the Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in Mariupol since the shelling of the city. Members of the competition jury from Kharkiv are refugees now. We know that the Kyiv theatre company has remained in the city and cannot leave because of the ongoing fighting. We have been in touch with the L’viv Miniature Theatre “Both People and Puppets” and actors from my hometown of Poltava, because the situation is less dramatic in some parts of the country. The director of the Amateur Folk Theatre “Dzerkalo” called me a few days ago and said, “Listen, I’m coming over with our spectacle, I’ll just change its message to include what’s going on right now.”

Will the current situation affect the message of the whole festival? This year’s motto is “Unmasking”.

I think that if anything it has become even more appropriate. It was originally going to mean the symbolic taking off of masks to mark the end of the pandemic. The war has shown in no uncertain terms that Russia has taken off its mask to reveal its true face of an aggressor. Ukraine has also revealed its true face, which the international community perhaps wasn’t expecting.

The war has also forced the Mass Spectacle Foundation to change.

Instead of organising our planned events – the Ukrainian Theatre Festival “East-West” and a review of Ukrainian cinema at Paradox Cinema – we are now delivering medication to hospitals in Ukraine and equipment for soldiers on the front. Our revitalised contact with our home country means we have become a first point of contact for institutions, foundations and individuals from Ukraine. I am doing my best to use my skills in managing people, time and space – crucial for my work on the festival – in helping my compatriots as best I can.

Refugees arriving in Kraków can seek sanctuary and find fellow Ukrainians at the Ukrainian NIĆ Café & Bookshop. Tell me about the venue.

The foundation has been in a friendly relationship with the café for a long time, and we frequently host cultural events there. Currently, all profits from book sales are being used directly to support Ukraine. In the coming months we are planning meetings with Ukrainian authors, exhibitions and workshops for children.

Why do you think we should all take a greater interest in Ukrainian culture?

It’s worth remembering the important historical and cultural ties between Kraków, L’viv and other cities in Ukraine. Currently Kraków is attracting my compatriots as a magnet, and they come here seeking shelter – not just because of geographical proximity.

I don’t think we have ever felt such a great need for talking about Ukrainian culture and stressing its uniqueness. Putin’s policy is rooted in denying the sovereignty of the Ukrainian nation, its heritage and right to self-determination. And this is what Ukraine is fighting for today: for its freedom, history and culture.

 

Nadiia Moroz-Olshanska – dyrektorka Międzynarodowego Festiwalu Teatru Ukraińskiego „Wschód-Zachód”, prezeska Fundacji Widowisk Masowych. Pochodzi z Połtawy. Mieszka w Krakowie od 2013 roku i od tego czasu aktywnie działa na rzecz promowania zróżnicowania kulturowego, etnicznego, wyznaniowego oraz integracji mieszkańców Krakowa i środowisk cudzoziemskich.President of the Mass Spectacle Foundation and Director of the International Ukrainian Theatre Festival “East-West”. Born in Poltava, she has been living in Kraków since 2013 where she is active in promoting cultural, ethnic and religious diversity and working to support the integration of Cracovian and expat circles.

 

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