FRENCHTOWN, N.J. – A group of Ukrainian performers were set to put on a show at ArtYard in Frenchtown Friday and Saturday night.
"Mothermotherland" will be followed by talkback events where the audience can ask the cast questions.
"I was with a three-week-old baby, and I realized that Ukraine was under full invasion," said Audrey Degez, a Pittsburgh native.
When Degez knew her performance residency in Ukraine wouldn't be possible, she was still determined to help the country's people.
"Slovo. Theater Group is dedicated to promoting Ukrainian culture, preserving Ukrainian culture, documenting Ukrainian culture," Degez said.
She created Slovo. Theater Group, with her baby Lili, who is in the show, and performers from Ukraine.
"Maxime had to go back because he's male, and he had to go back because of the draft last week," Degez explained.
Slovo. is spending six months traveling across America, a safe haven, to spark curiosity and conversation.
"Russia's invasion of Ukraine is something that we hear about, we see the headlines, we see photos, and we may feel very disconnected from it," said Meghan Van Dyk of ArtYard, "and to have these actors from Ukraine come here and share a part of their culture and talk about their experience is a real gift in exchange for us."
Following the updates overseas hasn't been easy.
"In the beginning, they were getting text message notifications every time there was active bombing in Kharkiv," Degez said.
"It's really hard. I didn't see my family for half a year, and my father and my grandparents are still in Kharkiv," said Daria Holovchanska, a member of Slovo. Theater Group. "Every day, it's shelling there."
Developing a show together, though, has been healing.
"We decided to make them (masks) somehow incorporate the story of Ukrainian writer Mykola Khyvylovy, on which we based our performance," Holovchanska said.
"Art is important during peaceful times," Van Dyk said. "During times of unrest and uncertainty, it is even more important.
"I think the work has gotten us through," Degez said.
The group posts about upcoming performances on its Facebook page.