Ukrainian children perform ‘Mom on Skype’ to raise money against the war at the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn

NEW YORK — A quiet Fort Greene street contrasts sharply with what’s happening inside an old church, where a young Ukrainian cast is rehearsing for an upcoming performance of “Mom on Skype,” at Brooklyn’s Irondale Theater.

Eight children, ages 7 to 14, a director mom and other chaperone parents, were invited to the United States from their war-torn homeland for a unique presentation of their original play.

“These Ukrainian children – how brave they are. How did you decide that?” CBS2’s Dana Tyler asked Terry Greiss, executive director and co-founder of the Irondale Theater.

“What do they do in the middle of a war when bombs are falling around them, potentially? They decide to do a play. It’s amazing,” Greiss said. “I thought we had to bring them here.”

And that’s what Greiss helped do after reading about the show. After months of paperwork, visa applications and some political wrangling, he saw what he calls an impossible project finally realized.

“Every one of them that came, they hugged me, they thanked me for bringing them here. They were so, what can you say, genuine,” Greiss said.

The piece was in production for months before the start of the war in Ukraine in February. It was played in April, only once, in a warehouse converted into a bomb shelter in Lviv.

“Mom on Skype” is based on a series of stories about children who miss their parents, who are forced to work away from their families.

“They understand us, how other children or children live without parents, without mom. All children need is love from their parents,” said 12-year-old Maharyta Kuzma.

The production was a labor of love for director Oleg Oneshchak, but as a soldier he was not allowed to leave the country. His wife, Maria, mother of actors Hanna and Oleksii, stepped in to the United States, with Ukrainian memories still lingering.

“When were you in the bomb shelter, rehearsing – how the hell was that?” Tyler asked.

In Ukrainian, she explained that they live in Kyiv, Ukraine, where refugees would come, where many people have lost their homes.

“We have aerial alarms, several times a day,” said Tetiana Mysiuha, through a translator. “We are where people would come to save their lives.”

Mysiuha is also mother to 13-year-old Anastasiia, who stars in the play.

“When we went to America, it was like another life because it was without any alarms, without any danger, without any planes, Russian planes,” she said.

Beyond the rehearsals, there were much appreciated downtimes. The children have been housed in a camp in Connecticut and they keep in touch with new friends. They also enjoyed a much anticipated trip to the Statue of Liberty.

“Liberty” became an even more critical element in the production of the play. Their goal is raise funds for a fighter jet.

“Let’s close the sky because we want to live. We want to live in our house with our parents, with our beds in our Ukraine,” said 13-year-old Valeria Khozhempa.

“When they had a first in a shelter, they decided that they could, with their game, with their play, try to raise money for our armed forces,” said Tetiana Mysiuha.

The themes of missing parents, under the specter of the present day, are never more poignant.

“It hurts, yes. Children can’t touch their parents, can’t kiss each other,” 14-year-old Khrystyna Hniedko said.

The show ends with an original song, a plea for peace written and sung mostly in English by 12-year-old Hanna.

For this message, even Oneshchak found words in English.

“Please this war. This genocide must stop. Because we want life, we love life and our country is very beautiful,” Oneshchak said.

For more information on “Mom on Skype”, CLICK HERE.

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