For the ninth year in a row, students of the United Ukraine group of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) have brought a vertep (Christmas play) to eastern Ukraine. This year, starting on January 10, the students caroled from Stanytsya Luhanska to Mariupol on the frontline.

The project Vertep in the East was born at UCU during the Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv. Its co-founder and coordinator is Yuriy Muryn.

“In 2012 we traveled to Odesa with a presentation,” says Muryn. “After a year off, we planned a vertep in Donetsk, But the crucial moment was the start of the Revolution of Dignity. The project was then ‘frozen,’ and we didn’t go to Donetsk. But on December 28, 2013, the UCU leadership asked us to organize a vertep on the Maidan [Independence Square] in Kyiv. That brought new life to the project and changed the idea. Eventually, after the vertep on the Maidan, which we put together in a few days, the idea arose to travel to the front, to our defenders.”

Because of the pandemic, this year only six participants out of 28 travelled to eastern Ukraine.

“It’s extremely hard to convey the essence of the vertep with only six,” explained Muryn, “so we drew attention to humor, political satire.”

But the students’ energy was unlimited, and one day they managed to put on seven performances. In previous years, they usually did three or four a day.

“It’s easy to send material aid through the postal service,” commented Muryn. “But that doesn’t convey the atmosphere of Christmas, support, gratitude. So we decided to go on tour, regardless of the smaller group. When, after performances, we hear ‘You made our day,’ we understand that this is worthwhile.”

Original Ukrainian text prepared by Diana Motruk.

Photos from the archive of United Ukraine