To start off Women’s History Month, we would like to shine a light on Ukrainian circus performer Yevgeniya Obolonina, a lifelong acrobat and the female star of Recirquel’s My Land.
Sometimes a circus star is born as well as made. With an acrobatic trainer as a mother and a world-champion acrobat for an older sister, Yevgeniya’s circus career began almost as soon as she did. Movement, acrobatics, and dance were family trades— they all came naturally to her. It wasn’t long before Yevgeniya took the stage. From ages 9 to 12, she performed as a member of an all-girl circus and acrobatics group.
Yevgeniya first met fellow Ukrainian acrobat Roman Khafizov seven years ago and, soon enough, the two began performing together. Appearing as a duo act, they shared the stage of venues and events across Europe, such as the 2018 Monte Carlo Circus Festival. That was where Yevgeniya first caught the eye of Bence Vági, the founder and artistic director of the Hungarian circus company Recirquel.
A few months later, the duo would go on to participate in the casting of Recirquel’s then-upcoming show, My Land—and Yevgeniya would inspire a change in the production. Inspired by the drive and talent of Ukrainian circus artists, Bence conceived My Landas a story of eternal allegiance to one’s homeland; a story to be built around and from the lives of a Ukrainian cast, to speak of their love and devotion to their country. Initially, Bence had not planned to have a female presence in My Land’snarrative. Upon seeing Yevgeniya in action, though, he was newly inspired. Yevgeniya joined the cast. Once she had, her life and story were enfolded into the show’s developing narrative of Ukraine, and she became a leading character.
Yevgeniya remains the female lead of My Land on its current tour of France, where it has been warmly received by audiences left in tears. It has been almost four years since the show’s narrative was developed, and, in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the cast’s expressions of love and devotion to their homeland hit audiences and performers both on a whole new level: devastation.
It was a week ago last Friday that Yevgeniya learned her mother’s town had been bombed. On the same night, she had to go on stage and play her role as usual. The stage floor had been covered with dirt. At the beginning of the show, Yevgeniya, as choreographed, grabbed the dirt that symbolizes her homeland. That night she couldn’t help the tears that started to flow down her face.
In that moment, in that theater, Yevgeniya is the symbol of all Ukrainian women— women who “just” do their job: who go on stage and perform for their country; serve in the army; support soldiers with gifts of homemade food and Molotov Cocktails; and who protect their children, their country’s future.
Image and footage courtesy Recirquel. @HrotkoBalint, @Lilla Flóra Székely, @Palyi Zsofia, @Tamas Rethey Prikkel Performers in "My Land": Rodion Drahun, Roman Khafizov, Sergii Materynskyi, Yevheniia Obolonina, Andrii Pysiura, Mykola Pysiura, Andrii Spatar