Two worlds col­lide on stage

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

The clash be­tween the deaf­en­ing si­lence of the New Zealand coun­try­side and the roar of Moscow’s streets is some­thing Ukraini­an­born Elena Ste­jko knows only too well.

It has been al­most a decade since the cen­tral Auck­land ac­tress first spoke of her ex­pe­ri­ences to writer Vanessa Rhodes but she is fi­nally tak­ing to the stage in Where Are You My Only One?

The un­con­ven­tional love story be­tween a Rus­sian sec­re­tary and a lonely Waikato farmer puts the mailorder bride phe­nom­e­non un­der the spot­light.

Ms Ste­jko stars as a woman from Moscow who lives with her dom­i­neer­ing mother and strikes up the un­likely re­la­tion­ship af­ter join­ing a Rus­sian mailorder bride agency.

‘‘When she writes to him she talks about the crowds and be­ing pushed and how ex­cit­ing it is and he talks about how it is so quiet on the farm that your ears some­times hurt,’’ she says.

The ac­tress ar­rived in New Zealand in 1995 with her daugh­ter in tow and knew very lit­tle English.

The cul­ture shock both characters ex­pe­ri­ence is some­thing she can re­late to.

‘‘It trans­lates the com­plex­i­ties of this jour­ney of be­liev­ing and pur­su­ing hap­pi­ness. I was driven by a bet­ter life. I was try­ing to find ex­actly what Yu­lia was look­ing for – a har­mony, a bal­ance, love and an ef­fort­less, fam­ily place.

‘‘But I re­mem­ber fly­ing into New Zealand and how look­ing down it was so tiny and part of me was fright­ened at that point be­cause it’s so far away and I thought what’s go­ing to hap­pen to me.’’

The play was penned by play­wright Vanessa Rhodes as a short one-act piece and was ex­panded in 2010.

‘‘There was a lot in the me­dia about so called ‘ mailorder brides’ and I was in­trigued to find out what lay be­hind th­ese of­ten neg­a­tive stereo­types,’’ Ms Rhodes says.

She in­ter­viewed peo­ple who had left Rus­sia fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, in­clud­ing Ms Ste­jko, and New Zealand men who were look­ing for re­la­tion­ships to get to grips with the po­ten­tial cul­ture clash.

‘‘I be­gan to imag­ine two un­likely souls find­ing each other and their two worlds col­lid­ing,’’ she says.

But for Ms Ste­jko the mes­sage of the play is uni­ver­sal.

‘‘It really is just about how ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble and to live and be­lieve in your dreams.’’

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