I think this was a time when I did the right thing. During Fortinbras we put on a play called The Master had a Talking Sparrow. It was immersive, we sat on dinner tables and we talked with the audience over a meal, it was about Belarus' hidden histories. And there was a couple, a man and a woman around my mum’s age. She was so lively and responsive, but he just sat with a straight spine, showing nothing. I even thought that he didn't want to be there, he seemed so bored, it was as if she just brought him. They sat right in front of me and my job as an actress was to make conversation with them and there is a part, a monologue in this play in which my character, my heroine, talks about how her family was murdered in World War II. Music is playing quietly and I talk and talk and I look at the table and I don’t look at the audience and suddenly I can see tears falling onto this man’s plate. He is an emotional old man and he just cried. It was the most emotional thing in my life. This experience is wow. I thought, I got you, you felt something and you let yourself show it, you let yourself break the emotional wall and it is so precious – that moment. Afterwards, he didn’t say anything, but he hugged me so hard I thought I had a cracked rib. And then he went away. I felt so powerful. He had empathy. I have no idea what was going on in his head, maybe he had a similar story about his family, but this moment of letting himself go – it was precious.
When we first started to perform as students I was afraid to look at the audiences’ faces and I let my colleagues down. But now I just love to see faces and eyes, it is so important to see how they react.
I am twenty-eight so I was born in Soviet Belarus and then a few months later it became independent – I don’t know how to live differently. My mum is a pharmacologist, but she joined the USSR army when she was nineteen and went to Afghanistan. After this, I found out she’s Russian and that I am half Russian and half Ukrainian. My mum believes it is better to live in Russia, she watches a lot of Russian television and she believes that our relatives living in Russia live better than we do. She misses Russia. Until I was five or six I went to visit my grandparents or my dad every summer in Ukraine as my mum raised me by herself. So until I was about four, I thought my mum was the bad one in the marriage, but then I saw my father drunk for the first time and I realised then that it was not my mum who was the problem. She probably didn’t want me to see my dad in this state, he was an officer in the army too and I think she wanted me to be proud of him, not see him like this. My father passed in 2008/2009. Now I feel as if my mum can’t live without me and I can’t live without her too. We don’t speak about politics and religion and human rights or sexual orientation, these are things we don’t speak about because we have different opinions and I don’t want to argue with her.
I have a few secrets from her now because I don’t want her to worry, but we just live together and love each other. Just mum and daughter stuff. But I can’t say I really feel imprisoned here in Belarus, my freedom here is in me and I feel strong enough to fight for myself, but other people in Belarus don’t feel this. Even young people my age – I feel young at twenty-eight – feel imprisoned and that is why there is so much depression. I don’t see happy drunk people at the bar where I work, I see sad drunk people and most of them are people who worked like hell for the week and they just want to forget about everything for a few days and forget themselves totally. It seems like this country is OK, but there is something not right and it bothers you and you deal with it by getting drunk.
I guess the thing that stops you from doing anything is that you feel so tiny against the machine and you don’t feel strong enough to fight it. It is easier to go to the police and get a job than it is to go to university as getting an education is too expensive.
I think Belarus Free Theatre is meant to be for me, it can’t not be. It is meant. The opportunity to join Belarus Free Theatre and Fortinbras was like that. So I think somehow or other, Belarus Free Theatre would come to me, I would be in it somehow. I can’t imagine a normal life, it scares me so bad. To be born, then kindergarten, school, university, have kids. It is killing me, I would be happy just to live a long life.
The future is complicated. There is too much stuff that is not on me in Belarus. I want to continue to do what I can do, and I do it really well, to talk to the audience in the way we talk about things.
I was thinking yesterday, why is the government so against Belarus Free Theatre and artists? Because of what? Because we are speaking about the problems that we have? You, the government, you are afraid that audiences will understand something? What we talk about is not a secret, we talk about the things that people talk about in their kitchens. So it is not a secret.
Belarus Free Theatre has given me power. I have never felt so powerful, I can talk about things I believe in, I can say it loud, I can impact people's minds. It goes through me, I can feel it.