Tevye lives

tevjeIf you look for them, this country is full of ghosts — masses of people who once lived here, but were driven away or killed in war, political oppression, pogroms, or genocide. One unanswered question in today’s Ukraine is how these vanished communities will be remembered. Are the Jewish shtetls, for instance, part of Ukraine’s national story? Or some separate history?

Brigid did a radio story for The World last week about one of these vanished people, the brilliant author Sholem Aleichem, and the community that he described in his stories about Tevye’s daughters. Those stories, of course, became the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” You can listen to the story by clicking on this link.

We only realized a few weeks ago that there’s a Ukrainian stage adaptation of “Tevye’s Daughters” playing here in Kyiv, Sholem Aleichem’s home town. Grigori Gorin, a Russian author and playwright, created it several decades ago, and it’s been playing here regularly for the past twenty years. Ukraine’s most famous living actor, Bogdan Stupka, plays the lead role. We went to see it, and even though we couldn’t understand the dialogue, it was an amazing experience. There’s no singing in this version, but a lot more laughing along with the crying. It seemed closer to the spirit of the original stories. But it was also a moving and slightly disturbing experience to experience these stories in the place where they were written, where the life they describe was so horribly snuffed out.


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