Sofi Oksanen’s first full-length play is set in Estonia in 1992, but casts its gaze through flashbacks to the period of Sovietisation in the late forties and early fifties. Aliide Truu is in her seventies in 1992 and living in her family home in a run down village not far from Tallinn. One day, she discovers a young woman lying unconscious in her front yard. Zara, from Vladivostok but of Estonian origin, turns out to be on the run from the Russian mafia. By interweaving these two women’s lives and destinies, Oksanen not only examines the searing wounds of the post-war period, but also brings the country’s recent history into sharp focus. We witness Aliide’s past, a time of night-time interrogations, when thousands of families were shipped to Siberia and partisans were hiding in the forests. In the present, Zara is from a world ruled by corruption and dominated by violence. Even the criminal element seems to have lost its way. As one old thug comments to his young colleague: “I want to be proud of my country. I want to be proud the way I used to be. But you, Pasha, you hate your country. You don’t want to be Russian.” Oksanen explores Estonian reality, including the inevitable shadows of both the Soviet Union and Russia, but her fundamental themes are universal. By linking the two periods, Oksanen examines how history informs not only a nation’s development but also the individual’s spirit and choices in life. The play tells the story of two women of different generations, exploring their experiences with the loss of freedom. How do people behave when faced with very few alternatives, and what is the ultimate cost of survival? Is it possible to salvage a vestige of dignity when individual will is subject to outside forces, to the pressures of fear and abuse? How to maintain our humanity in the light of actions committed under duress? Perhaps we can only make sense of our present by coming to terms with the past. (Tinfo)
Staged reading at Volkstheater Rostock, Germany 17 April 2009. The Finnish original premiered at the Finnish National Theatre in 2007.