In a heartfelt initiative to bring the untold stories of the Ukrainian conflict to a wider audience, Karmen McNamara, founder of the Help Ukraine Vancouver Island Society, is set to premiere the emotionally charged play, “A Dictionary of Emotions in War Time,” at Langham Court Theatre.


Upon receiving the screenplay depicting the Russian invasion of Ukraine, McNamara was determined to find a stage for the unpublished manuscript in Victoria. The 80-minute two-hander, penned by Ukrainian playwright Olena Astasieva, will make its world debut at Langham Court Theatre this week, featuring contributions from Ukrainian refugees now residing in Victoria.


McNamara, of Ukrainian descent herself, has dedicated the past 18 months to preparing the play for the stage. The cast and crew, including actors, musicians, stage managers, and stagehands, all consist of Ukrainian refugees, except McNamara, who is the sole Canadian citizen involved.


“A Dictionary of Emotions in War Time” stars Anastasiia Konstantynova and Kseniia Sinelikova, both Ukrainian natives, with original music by Borys Koniukhov and Julia Frait of Victoria-based Lado Strings.


Astasieva’s poignant script, written during the early days of the Russian invasion, incorporates real-life correspondence between the author and friends in Kherson, Ukraine. The narrative unfolds at the onset of Russia’s invasion, vividly portraying the devastating impact on innocent lives.


Prior to reaching McNamara, the play was translated into English with grant funding from the Center for International Theater Development. The world premiere is timely, as McNamara emphasizes the ongoing importance of highlighting the prolonged conflict in Ukraine.


“A Dictionary of Emotions in War Time” is a collaborative effort between Help Ukraine Vancouver Island Society and Langham Court Theatre. Net proceeds from the production will support displaced Ukrainians on Vancouver Island. Co-directed by McNamara and Diana Budiachenko, the play aims to raise awareness and understanding among Canadians about the enduring struggles faced by Ukrainians.


Despite the option to present the play in Ukrainian, the decision was made to produce it in English, broadening its impact beyond the local Ukrainian community. McNamara underscores the significance of telling these stories to Canadians, reminding them of the ongoing hardships faced by Ukrainians even as the conflict fades from the headlines.


With over 1,000 Ukrainian refugees settling on Vancouver Island, funds raised from the production will contribute to the ongoing support provided by McNamara and the society. The play not only aims to share these impactful stories but also strives to alleviate the concerns of those who have had to rebuild their lives far from home.