War in Ukraine: Watching the Bard in a bunker - The Worcester Observer

War in Ukraine: Watching the Bard in a bunker

Worcester Editorial 23rd Sep, 2023   0

WHEN Worcester academic Nicoleta Cinpoe first heard about the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, like many, she wanted to help.

And while practical help for those fleeing the country and those left behind was the immediate response, in time thoughts turned to how, as an academic, she could help the nation with its long-term plan for its future recovery.

Particularly in preserving its theatrical heritage.

Nicoleta, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Worcester, has returned from a trip to Ukraine, which came at the end of an eight-month-long ULAM-NAWA Fellowship at the University of Warsaw in Poland, where she has been making strides in helping to future-proof the nation’s vital work in the humanities.

“During my Fellowship I was teaching students from Ukraine who have taken up the opportunity to complete their degrees in Poland” she said.

“There was a lot of discussion about whether theatre was important in the context of a war going on and it was really moving and impressive to listen to what students had to say.




“The view was that continuing their education was really important. We talked about being activists through education and about the social engagement of theatre.”

In Ukraine, it is not just the buildings and the infrastructure which is being blown apart by the Russian invasion – the country is also facing a destruction of its identity, heritage and culture.


At the end of her Fellowship, Professor Cinpoe was invited to visit Ukraine by colleagues from Lviv, Ternopil and Zaporizhzhia, where she saw for herself the on-going devastation and the determination of its people to win-through.

She also visited Ivano-Frankivsk where she met with the artistic and managing director of Ivan Franco National Theatre and their current ensemble who are performing Shakespeare and other plays in bomb shelters.

“I saw Romeo and Juliet in the theatre bunker and an adaptation of Lesya Ukrainka’s work in the theatre basement newly fitted to withstand bombs raids and shelling,” she said.

“In Ukraine, actors and artists are considered as part of the frontline – that is acknowledged by the government, because they are responsible for caring for the home-front communities and preserving the heritage of the country for the future. Productions are sold out because people need to maintain some sense of worth and normality.”

“Their buildings are being destroyed and their history is in danger too. There are lots of ways in which we can help now, we don’t need to wait until the war is over. It’s crucially important to carry on.

“They are seeking to discard the Soviet-imposed ways. We can offer them exposure to other ways so they can find their own way going forwards. We can open up opportunities for them to come out and show the world what they do. We can learn from them and support them.”

Professor Cinpoe is working to help train colleagues in how to write theatre history and supporting practitioners through the European Shakespeare Research Association.

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