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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How New Russian Drama Came to Slovakia

Some things are just meant to happen. Romana Maliti’s introduction to contemporary Russian drama was apparently one of them.

These days, Romana is well-known in Europe as one of the most important figures in the Slovakian theater world. She was a founding member of the New Drama festival in Bratislava. She has long been an instrumental member of the team that puts on the prestigious Nitra Festival every fall. She currently heads the committee preparing the Eastern Slovakian city of Kosica to serve as the cultural center of Europe in 2013. 

That’s all fine and dandy, but Romana’s affair with Russian drama had precious little to do with her professional interests.

When Romana’s Slovak mother was studying in Moscow, she met her future husband, an Ossetian also studying in Moscow, and took him home to Bratislava. That might have been the impulse, but it wasn’t.

Romana’s mother, Eva Maliti-Franova, is a prominent playwright and translator of Russian literature and drama (she spent seven years translating Andrei Bely’s great novel “Petersburg,” among other things), but that wasn’t it either.

As it might happen in a fairy tale, it took a bit of vodka and a lonely journey to do it. As Romana tells in the video accompanying this blog entry, while traveling from Sofia to Varna in Bulgaria in 2001, a young man struck up a conversation with her in Russian. She had no idea who it was, but it turned out to be Ivan Vyrypayev, the up-and-coming author of such plays as “Dreams,” “Oxygen” and others that were turning people’s heads in Moscow at the time. Plied by a bit of vodka and a tad of flirting, she had agreed to translate Ivan’s plays into Slovakian by the time they reached Varna.

But that wasn’t all. In another incident, Romana broke up with the love of her life, as she now puts it with a sly smile. A friend who was interested in getting Romana out of her funk invited her to perform a role in a new play that she wanted to stage. There was only one hitch — the play wasn’t translated yet. So Romana not only played the eccentric role of the lonely Zina in Olga Mukhina’s famous “Tanya-Tanya,” she translated it as well.

This year, Romana and her mother Eva were instrumental in putting together an anthology of Russian drama in Slovakian that was published by the Theater Institute of Bratislava. Romana translated three of the collection’s five plays; Eva translated two. The writers represented are Ivan Vyrypayev, Olga Mukhina, Maksym Kurochkin, Vasily Sigarev and Yury Klavdiev. A presentation for the book was held on Monday, Oct. 12, at the Slovakian Institute next door to the Slovakian embassy in Moscow. And that is where, standing before some striking photos by Slovakian photographer Kamil Varga, Romana allowed me to film her story about how contemporary Russian drama entered her life.

Click on the picture to see what she had to say.