2 Russian Women Put on a Play. Then the State Came for Them.


Ms. Berkovich, the director, comes from a family of advocates — her mother is a human-rights activist, as was her grandmother, and her father is a poet. On the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ms. Berkovich was arrested and jailed for 11 days after holding a poster with the inscription “No to War,” and allegedly disobeying the police officers who demanded she accompany them to the station. She has also written antiwar poetry.

The playwright, Ms. Petriychuk, became well-known in the Moscow theater world in 2018, when she had her first reading at the Lyubimovka theater festival and began winning recognition and awards.

Both women have repeatedly asked that their detention be changed to house arrest. Ms. Petriychuk has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and Ms. Berkovich is mother to two adopted teenage daughters. She met them at a summer camp for orphans, where she and some friends were helping young campers put on plays for potential adoptive families.

It’s awful, it’s very hard for them,” Ksenia Sorokina, a friend of Ms. Berkovich, said of the two daughters. “This is a terrible trigger for them, to repeatedly lose their parents.”

In April, just before the trial began, both women were added to Russia’s official list of “terrorists and extremists,” freezing their bank accounts. The list includes the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, political opposition figures such as the late Aleksei A. Navalny, the “international L.G.B.T movement” and Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

Mr. Dyurenkov, the former art director of the Moscow festival, said he expected more prosecutions of this kind. “Once this door opens, it doesn’t close anymore,” he said. “This is how the repressive system works.”

@Anastasia Kharchenko contributed reporting.



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