top of page


Donbas Dreams Past, Present & Future

created by Yara Arts Group
performed by: Artem Manyilov, Larysa Rusnak, Mykola Shkaraban, 
Julian Kytasty, Ostap Kostyuk, Mykola Zelenchuk & Dakh Daughters Freak-Cabaret 
conceived & directed by Virlana Tkacz
monologs & poetry: Serhiy Zhadan
projections & photography: Waldemart Klyuzko
presented by Izolyatsia Platform for Cultural Initiative

Virlana's blog: "War Makes a Play" on the making of Underground Dreams

Kyiv: GogolFest - Sept 2014 
 Yara's photosIzolyatsia's photos | press & photos | video 
Les Kurbas Theatre Center - July 2014 

Izolyatsia seized June 9, 2014

Donetsk:workshop Oct 2013 
photos press
"Yara Crosses Borders: ... to Donetsk" 


Although the intrepid Izolyatsia team is in exile, they are undeterred. Izolyatsia currently is working on a theater project in Kyiv with Yara Arts Group from New York about the dreams of young people of the Donetsk region. It refocuses Yara’s performance piece shown in Donetsk last October in terms of recent events and the war in the eastern part of Ukraine.

“Underground Dreams” was presented on July 21 as a work-in-progress at the Les Kurbas Theatre Center in Kyiv. The creative team included writer Serhiy Zhadan and theatre director Virlana Tkacz, who heads Yara Arts Group. Further performances are planned for Kyiv in September and New York in December.
Margaret Morton, AI-AP Design Arts Daily, July 24, 2014


The crisis in Ukraine is becoming a stimulus for artists. Exhibits and performances about the war and refugees are being created and are finding audiences. This show about refugees is a breakthrough. “Underground Dreams” is a theatre performance about the past, present and future of Donbas. That is how it is described in the program. Last year when no one imagined there would be a war, or terrorism, Virlana Tkacz, the artistic director of Yara Arts Group, and writer Serhiy Zhadan, initiated the “Underground Dreams” project. They found 17 young citizens of Donetsk and recorded their dreams. Izolyatsia supported this project. The happy young people of Donetsk spoke about their stadiums, slag heaps and the people in their town. They described their hopes and dreams which in light of today’s events seem lighthearted and trivial. Now when members of the audience entered the show they were asked about their own dreams. The answer “May the war end” was so consistent that it wasn’t even recorded.
   “Underground Dreams” developed into a full-fledged production about refugees, the ties we feel to our home city and the war. Both performances of the show at Gogolfest were sold-out. The new version, presented with assistance from the Les Kurbas National Theatre and Yara Arts Group from La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York, is an exploration of the dreams of the people of Donetsk. The monologs and poetry are by Serhiy Zhadan, the texts and songs are either traditional, translated of American poetry or created by Dakh Daughters.
   This minimalist theatre piece, without obvious theatrical sets, starts in a stuffy room. The heroine, a refugee, chaotically tries to gather her things, breaking dishes and screaming. This was the first time I felt my emotions approach hysteria. Refugees who attended “Underground Dream” saw themselves in a mirror. Each of us had once gathered our things, not knowing where to put the keys, reasonably telling ourselves to take only what is most important, because soon we will definitely return. While at the same time unconsciously we understood that there was no place to return to. The topic is very powerful, and it is close to each of the hundreds of thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes.
   The sound of the breaking dishes was the second moment that had me close to tears, and it wasn’t so much about the refugees as about the war. Only 700 kilometers from here, shells are destroying apartments and buildings. They smash dishes, walls and furniture. Each plate is a part of a former life, a little piece that is connected to something larger and more important. 
   In the large hall mountain horns from the Carpathians and projections of highland pasturelands – these are the new world, to which the refugee run. The live music, so unusual for people from Donetsk, reminds us of their existential insertion into unknown circumstances. The woman refugee could not find her place elsewhere; she was still too tied to her keys, which for every refugee become the symbol of return.
   There are only three main characters in the show, but all the sides of the war are shown. We’ve already covered the refugee. The monolog of the warrior next brought me to tears. In this section you could obviously hear sobbing in the audience. “Everything will be fine. We are paid well –$100 a day and $100 for every ‘200’ (euphemism for a dead body)” – the warrior tells us about his daily life.
  “Every building in Donetsk is dear to the person who built it” – said a young man who once worked in Donetsk as an architect. That is how he answered the comment that in this city of miners there really aren’t any interesting buildings, so it was not such a great loss that this city is being destroyed. The war which is destroying buildings most touches those people who built them. People mourn the loss of their own home, architects mourn the loss of all the buildings. In “Underground Dreams” the builder makes this point.
   The Dakh Daughters musical group “screamed” the music. In any other situation this kind of singing would seem very unmelodic, and underground. But during war, loud heightened articulation of every word and sharp percussive sounds form the background for my tears, again. I cried again when old pictures of Donetsk were projected and the chorus of refugees stood in the middle of the room, frozen, in their grey coats with their suitcases. They had no future, no thoughts, no dreams. 
   “Underground Dreams” was such an emotional, powerful and deep piece, that I thought this is the line. It is simply not possible to fill a performance with more pain. If they cross this line, my nerves will simply not hold up and I will have to leave the room. It is a good that they show the war and the situation of the refugees to people in Kyiv. No matter what they hear and what they see in the social media, people in other regions simply do not understand what it means to be a refugee – to be forced to flee from your own home.
  But “Underground Dreams” ended with dreams. All the characters ran out and returned to their own land. The warrior who had settled in another land, returned because of the song his mother sang and the smell of steppe grass. The refugee woman returned to the dark earth of her region. 
   The final movement in the light of a few lanterns – was also tense. Our heroes, happy at first, seem possessed. Their white dresses reminded us of white hospital gowns. War changes everything. No one knows if in reality the refugees will ever return to their own land. No one knows how many of them will lose their minds and will dance not out of joy, but in a new wild state. Maybe the phrase “I will return” will remain only a dream for the refugees of Donbas -- a dream both underground and unfulfillable.
Vitlaina Orlova, NGO.DONETSK.UA, September 15, 2014.

 One of the most interesting events of the festival was the show “Underground Dreams” by Virlana Tkacz from New York with Serhiy Zhadan and Dakh Daughters Freak Cabaret. It examines the various layers of the dreams of Donbas. The creators interviewed young residents of Donetsk about their dreams and their city. Then they looked at the dreams of a builder, the attitude of steppe dwellers to nature and grass. The artists decided to dig into the past. They like the idea that coal is made of what used to be trees that are at the root of everything here. Fragments of American poems are used, which Virlana Tkacz translated into Ukrainian/ Serhiy Zhadan wrote the monologs used in the performance.
Olha Zhuk, Ukraina moloda (Kyiv) Sept 16, 2014

The project was created with Dakh Daughter Freak Cabaret, Serhiy Zhadan and Izolyatsia, and contains interviews with young residents of Donetsk about their dreams and their city which were recorded a year ago, as well as interviews with the same people recorded recently.
   The show by Virlana Tkacz explores the transformation of the dream and hopes of the people of Donbas during the war. The interviews are at the core of the “Underground Dreams,” which also features monologs written for the show by Serhiy Zhadan. 
   Fragments from a documentary film on the history of Donbas was shown. Virlana Tkacz also stages a legend about Yevshan Grass, which is the first entry of the Halych Volyn Chronicle. According to the legend, yevshan grass helps you remember memories and dreams.
   The main character is played by Larysa Rusnak from the Dramatic Theatre. She plays a refugee, who tells us her story. Actor Artem Manuilov portrays a warrior in the east. Another character is a builder, whose work is destroyed in the war. Dakh Daughters portray refugees; they sing a traditional song and one based on poem by Serhiy Zhadan.
Katya Kunytskaia,, Sept 16, 2014.

bottom of page