News / Edmonton

Playwright tackles decades of violence in Ukraine through 'digestable human story'

Edmonton-based Lianna Makuch traveled to the country for three weeks to research for Blood of Our Soil, which premieres March 1.

Lianna Makuch wrote Blood of Our Soil, running March 1-9 at Westbury Theatre.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Lianna Makuch wrote Blood of Our Soil, running March 1-9 at Westbury Theatre.

Reading about the violent conflict in Ukraine was not enough for Edmonton playwright Lianna Makuch, whose grandparents fled the country during the Second World War.

Seeing history repeat itself, she took her Pyretic Productions team on a three-week trip across the country last fall to research for her latest play, Blood of Our Soil.

The production runs Thursday through March 9 at the ATB Arts Barns’ Westbury Theatre.

“You can only learn so much from news articles and stories. It’s hard to even get information and understand everything," Makuch said.

Blood of Our Soil follows a Canadian woman, Hania, reflecting on memories of summers spent with her baba and coming to terms with the current conflict, while depicting struggles of Ukrainian people through history against Stalin, Hitler and the current Putin regime.  

"There’s a lot of people in Canada who don’t even know that the war is happening. So I needed to go to Ukraine to find out what was going on and talk to the people, people like my grandmother," Makuch said.

In 2012, months before the conflict broke out, Makuch had discovered her grandmother's "beautifully written" wartime journal that chronicled her immigration to Canada.

Makuch used the journal as the basis for an acclaimed solo show, but her travels allowed her to create the more ambitious production that became Blood of Our Soil.

The team started its travels in Western Ukraine in October, walking through the villages where her grandparents grew up.

They then moved east near the conflict zone, where they met with displaced people, war veterans, and operators of an infant orphanage caught between two strategic military zones.

“It was a really profoundly affecting experience,” Makuch said.

She added that she hopes people can use the production as a place to learn, convene, heal, talk, and recognize their place within this global community.

“It sounds like it’s going to be very heavy and serious. And while it is very heavy and very serious, it’s not a lecture. It’s an approachable, digestable, human story that I think a lot of people can take a lot from," she said.

"There’s a lot of laughter, and also tears. Overall, it’s a human story.”

Furthering the educational component, a lobby installation will be on display throughout the production detailing 100 years of Ukrainian history and featuring GoPro video taken by a Ukrainian veteran who was wounded in battle in 2014.

The veteran, Dmytro Lavrenchuk, will also take part in a pre-show panel discussion co-presented by the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies on Friday.

Blood of our Soil premieres Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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