“In this drama, I’m here to the final scene.” Theatre director Berkovich and playwright Petriychuk speak at a court hearing on their detention
Анна Павлова
“In this drama, I’m here to the final scene.” Theatre director Berkovich and playwright Petriychuk speak at a court hearing on their detention
9 January 2024, 21:51

Фото: Александра Астахова / Медиазона

Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow extended the detention of theatre director Zhenya Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk. They were taken into custody in Moscow in May, on charges of “public calls to terrorism.” The case stems from their 2020 play, “Finist, the Brave Falcon” about the lives of women who choose to marry Islamist extremists online and subsequently relocate to Syria. Since May, the two women are jailed, even though Berkovich has two adoptive daughters. Mediazona publishes the statements they read during today’s hearings.

While Berkovich originally delivered her remarks in verse, our English rendition focuses on conveying the essence of her words, opting for clarity over rhyme.

Zhenya Berkovich

Your Honour, as you already heard today, our criminal case was opened nine months ago, eight of which we spent in jail. And, if my calculations are correct, including the appeal, this is the eighth time we are in court, where the question of our form of detention is being discussed or appealed.

And each time the court’s decision contains a phrase that completely mesmerizes me. It goes something like this: the court doesn’t see reasons to change the form of detention, because the circumstances in which it was chosen haven’t changed.

Your Honour,
I must declare:
Indeed, things are as they appear,
And there’s nothing to debate here.

Our arguments do sound the same, it’s clear.
For, each time, we hear
The same set phrases from the investigation.
And, naturally, we answer the same thing.

It all keeps repeating, over and over.
I’m at a loss for what to do, and how to fight.
Write a speech and sing it in Buryat?
Perhaps include some advertising?

Every time Sveta and I are brought here,
We hope. But hope so far in vain.
As citizens, we count on our court time,
But each time, it’s like Groundhog Day.

There’s one answer to one question.
Via video or in person, face-to-face.
About fleeing, a chance approaching none,
About pressuring the witnesses, who don’t exist.

And about me not fleeing in a bracelet from my home.
In this drama, I’m here to the final scene.
And about me not continuing my criminal activities,
Which I never started in the first place.

Under investigation in Russia, here I stand,
And as much as I’d want to, I can’t get out of this net.
I still have two sick children,
Who are being deprived of their childhood.

16 years in orphanages, between the two.
And finally: a home, safety, a mother,
Can’t you at least spare me and them this torture?
Just no torture, that would be something.

I still have the same home in Moscow.
The same registration, an easy address to remember.
There’s a change though: I had two grandmothers,
And now just one. In a month, she’ll turn 90 (I hope.)

And the investigation still hasn’t unearthed anything,
Despite all the resources and all the capabilities.
And still, no one’s in a hurry to close
Our case of special complexity.

The case is dead. That’s it. Game over.
It can’t be saved by testimony, interrogation, word.
Listen, in nine months, one could have fully birthed an expert.
And he would’ve been well-prepared.

Maybe it’s time to finish this public lashing?
It’s not the 80s, there’s no parliament outside the court.
The difference between an investigation and brawl
Is that the goal of the former is to prove, not to punish.

But the investigation is happy with the way everything is going.
It’s so convenient. The case is frozen, we’re in prison.
That’s a strategy for real heroes.
The opponent who didn’t come out on the field is invincible.

Your Honor, we didn’t choose this path.
And our journey can’t be considered comfortable.
You see, when the essence remains unchanged,
And artist can only work with the form.

But the essence won’t change. There can’t be any variation here.
Any child can confirm this, no matter whose.
As citizens, we expect to see fair judges.
It’s still a little early for executioners.

But I still believe that you’re not one of them.
That it’s a significant and honest choice for you.
And since it emerged for some reason,
That means we can still expect a surprise.

I’m finishing up, I don’t have four volumes.
Unfortunately, I don’t even have two notebooks.
But if there’s no hope to choose the words,
All that remains is to bet on their order.

After all, it’s a new year.
The dragon arrived. Not a spider, not, a worm, not a mute fish.
I ask you, remember about the miracle and the law.
They are nearly synonyms. That’s all. Thank you.

Svetlana Petriychuk

Your Honour, my play does not contain any justification of terrorism—and there cannot be anything of the sort in there. Moreover, we voiced our completely opposite position publicly many times. And, of course, I’m eternally surprised, over and over again, how these documents could be considered sufficient by everyone, given the fact that they all look like copies of each other, and that’s everything the investigation can produce. Two months—and the motion is granted.

Your Honour, I have no intentions to escape, I am a law-abiding person, I have real estate, I wouldn’t try to interfere with the investigation in any way and even more so to run away through backyards. That’s why I’m asking you to deny the motion and set us free.

Judge Larisa Semenova extended the detention until March 10.

Editor: Maria Klimova

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