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אָנקומען /Arrived/Przybyli: Searching for Love and Home in a Street Performance

Ula Urszula Chowaniec

This summer, Spanish/Lithuanian artists Adrian Schvarzstein and Jūratė Širvytė-Rukštelė delivered incredible performances in the Kraków Street Theatre Festival. Street theatre is at the heart of the Yiddish theatrical tradition (think theatre jesters and Purim-shpilers), which is why it was particularly resonant for me to see their performance during the year’s ULICA Street Theatre Festival, held from July 6th to 9th in Kraków, Poland, themed “THE JOY of a backyard regained.”

This interactive, dynamic, captivating, wordless performance, titled אָנקומען /Arrived/Przybyli, revolved around a romantic story set before the tragic events of the Shoah, depicting the joy and excitement of a young couple’s arrival in a new home. Although it was a wordless performance, the fact of its Yiddish context was emphasized at the outset through the title (which translates to English as “Arrival”), which was written on the pavement, and the piece’s starting location, The Old Synagogue/ the Alte Shul. These hints allowed for the audience to interpret the story as one about the lost Yiddish world and the tragic context for of this joyful feeling of arrival. Even though the audience understands the play to be a Jewish story, probably meant to take place in the 1930s, Adrian’s and Jūratė’s charismatic presence and beauty removed the audience from any foreboding or gloominess and took us to a world where love and happiness prevail.

The performance began with a clever idea: the artists recreated a family photo using audience members. With their skilful direction, Jūratė and Adrian transformed us into a united community, blurring the lines between strangers and turning us into one big family for the duration of the performance.

Later on, as the artists led us through the narrow streets of Kazimierz, they continued to involve us in the performance, drawing chalk figures to represent brothers and creating an atmosphere of celebration and togetherness. For example, we were welcomed into an imaginary home, greeted warmly when crossing a line drawn on the pavement, and some of us were stood under the metaphorical wedding canopy, feeling festive and embraced (while the chuppah was just a parasol in the beer garden of one of the Kazimierz’s bars). They transformed the space to be part of the story they were telling about us as a Jewish family.

Throughout the performance, the couple defied the boundaries of space and engaged with the audience, challenging us to break free from our communication barriers. They shed light on the indifference of some passers-by, revealing the fear that inhibits human connection. The most powerful message of this performance, for me, was its universality and relevence to our present moment: it was a plea to acknowledge the presence of those who have recently arrived, to celebrate their journey, and to dismantle the borders that divide us. Thus, it was not only a story about Jewish arrivals in this space, but about outsiders in general striving to build lives of joy where they are out of place. By incorporating the audience into this feeling of outsiderness, the performance taught us to strive for empathy with this experience.

The final scene was a beautiful dance intertwined with a touch of jealousy, in which the couple finally unites. As they leapt through an open window of a bar, leaving behind the words “sweet home” on the wall, we were reminded that the quest for home is universal, and that finding home and finding love are often intertwined. It was a happy love story, but also much more - it was a story of immigration, settlement, acceptance.

The performance offered a glimpse of hope to its audience. It skillfully played with the concept of time, taking us to a magical pre-war era while resonating with us today and with people from around the globe.

Adrian Schvarzstein and Jūratė Širvytė-Rukštelė’s performance was a true testament to the power of art and human connection.

MLA STYLE
Chowaniec, Ula Urszula. “אָנקומען /Arrived/Przybyli: Searching for Love and Home in a Street Performance.” In geveb, September 2023: https://ingeveb.org/blog/אָנקומען-arrived-przybyli.
CHICAGO STYLE
Chowaniec, Ula Urszula. “אָנקומען /Arrived/Przybyli: Searching for Love and Home in a Street Performance.” In geveb (September 2023): Accessed May 26, 2024.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ula Urszula Chowaniec

Ula Urszula Chowaniec is a professor of literature and culture and teacher of Yiddish women’s writers and Yiddish literature in Translation at the Paideia European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden. She is also a teacher of Polish at Lund University.