Playwriting workshop helps young Ukrainians share their stories

Youngsters are developing their own plays based on their experiences of being displaced by the war.

Young Ukrainians living in Scotland have been working with professional actors and directors to help bring their stories to life as part of a playwriting workshop in Edinburgh.

It’s the first time the international Class Act programme for Ukrainians has been held in Scotland since the Russian invasion.

Lidiia Tkachenko, 16, was recommended the week-long programme by her drama teacher.

After being displaced by the war, she’d hoped to continue her passion for the arts in Edinburgh but was shocked by the challenges she faced.

Lidiia Tkachenko, 16.STV News

Lidiia said: “When I lived in Ukraine, I used to play in theatre and attended different act classes.

“But when I first went to school, it was so hard for me – because first when I came here, I thought my English was very well. But when I came to school, I was really shocked.”

For the last week, she’s had the chance to develop her very own play with the help of actors, directors and musicians.

She and a lot of the youngsters taking part took inspiration in their writing from their own experience of being displaced by the war.

At the end of the week, their stories are then brought to life by professionals to allow them to see their ideas in action.

Actors Maureen Beattie and Matthew Zajac rehearsing the youngsters plays. STV News

Ivan Nazarenko, 13, said: “I decided to write about troubles people face when they have to move to different places and bullying.

“I really enjoyed it because I don’t often get to talk to Ukrainians, it doesn’t seem like there are too many Ukrainians in my area so I really like this event.”

The Traverse Theatre’s Class Act project has been running national and internationally for over 30 years, taking place in various different countries around the world.

In 2016, The Traverse took the project to Kyiv to bring young people from the West Ukrainian city of Novovalynsk and the East Ukrainian city of Popasna together following the pro-EU Maidan revolution in Kyiv in 2013-14, and the subsequent outbreak of war in the Russian-influences East Ukrainian region.

The project ran annually in the Capital for three years, then following Russia’s invasion in 2022, those behind the scheme decided to bring refugees and Ukrainians living in Scotland together.

Class Act director Robbie Gordon said: “The Traverse has a really rich history in working in that post-Soviet space.

The young people work with professional actors, directors and musicians during the week-long programme. STV News

“It’s been led by a playwright called Nicola McCartney who first went over to do this work around 20 years ago.

“This is very much a continuation of that work and it’s pretty much the first time it’s been done here in Scotland with Ukrainians in Scotland.”

Project co-leader Natalya Vorozhbyt worked with the original project in Ukraine and relates to the displacement felt by some of the young people involved.

She said: “As me, who has a 15-year-old daughter, I also moved with her when everything started in 2022 to Oxford and I know myself how difficult it is for young people to actually adapt in a new environment for them.

“So this project is like a tool for young people to express themselves, to adapt better, to communicate better what they really feel.”

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