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Mykolaiv theatre resumes its programme in spite of Russian bombardment

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By Thomas Blade
mykolaiv theatre
mykolaiv theatre   -   Copyright  AFP   -  

This theatre's backstage area might look like any other before a show, as actors eagerly make their final preparations before taking to the stage.

But in this case, the theatre is in Mykolaiv, and tonight’s performance is being held in a warzone.

Like other Ukrainian theatres, it closed at the start of the invasion. Now, six months into the bloodiest conflict on the continent in decades, the Mykolaiv Art Drama Theatre has opened its doors to the public once again, albeit in the basement.

Its ornate 450-seat hall remains closed for the moment, but its troupe is present and accounted for.

"I could leave and go abroad because I have an 8-year-old child, but I understand my husband is here defending Mykolaiv in the military and there is creative work here volunteering my art, so I am needed here," said actress Maryna Vasylyeva.

With almost daily bombings and reports from the frontlines, the theatre gives residents a much-needed break from the war, while performances serve as yet another form of resistance to the Russian aggression.

"Now, when people are scared, and we are being shelled, the theatre brightens people's smiles and it inspires people to go on living and improving themselves," said one audience member.

Mykolaiv, declared a hero city by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been a common target of bombardment by the Russian troops since the early days of the war. It has been estimated that no other urban area still under Ukrainian control has been hit as ferociously and as often.

The battle for the city began on 26 February, with the Ukrainian forces managing to wrest control over the key southern industrial centre in early April. Mykolaiv has remained the target of Russian missile attacks since.