Ukrainian actors tell tales of war onstage
Devastated villages, separated families and hardened soldiers -- stories of Russia's invasion of Ukraine are being taken to the stage in a play performed by actors who have fled their homeland.
"Special Operation", named after Russian President Vladimir Putin's so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine, opened in Denmark's second-largest city Aarhus on Saturday evening.
The hour-long performance was written by Anatoli Zinovenko, a well-known actor back in his homeland.
He and his wife Tetyana -- who also stars in the play -- were forced to flee Ukraine ten days into Russia's invasion, after seeing "rockets and helicopters swirling" above their Kyiv home.
"It was impossible to understand, no one believed that there would be a war, but it happened," said 62-year-old Zinovenko, who has starred in several Ukrainian films, series and performances.
The actor had not written a play before, but when he and his family found safety in Denmark, he said that "everything that was in my heart, it all came out on paper".
"Everything I heard, saw and understood. I wanted to put it all on paper," he said.
The play tells the story of two Ukrainian women who become the sole survivors of a Russian attack on their village.
A Russian soldier, injured and abandoned by his platoon, breaks into their home, forcing the women to decide whether to offer him help or exact revenge.
Zinovenko, who plays the Russian soldier, calls it a tale of "heroism, humanity and spirituality".
"The women, who have switched places with this occupier, have the opportunity to kill him, but they do not kill him. Why? Because they are not capable of it," he said.
- 'Cultural bridge' -
Organisers described the play as building a "cultural bridge" between Ukraine and Denmark, which has welcomed some 30,000 Ukrainian refugees since the war began in February 2022.
The Aarhus show marks the sixteenth performance of "Special Operation" in Denmark.
Profits will be donated to humanitarian organisations working in Ukraine.
"We in Denmark only know about this war from the media, from high electricity prices or high food prices," said the head of the Katapult Theatre, Torben Dahl.
"What we can do is make people in Denmark aware of this situation on a more human level."
According to the UN cultural agency UNESCO, over 250 cultural sites have been damaged in the war including the Mariupol Theatre, destroyed by an airstrike while sheltering civilians.
"A lot of people of art are now at the front. Many of my acquaintances are fighting," said Zinovenko, whose younger brother is also on the front lines.
"I hope that we will perform the play not only in Denmark, of course in Ukraine as well."