play ukrainian dramaturgy war драматургія п'єса перша публікація сучасна українська драматургія

PRESSURE LEVEL, PULSE RATE a new play by Volodymyr Serdiuk


A play by Volodymyr Serdiuk


HE – unkempt playwright looking average.

SHE – a designer, a petty woman in sunglasses, in a T-shirt and sports pants. Both hands of her bandaged.

 Scene: Kyiv, Ukraine, a living room of a city apartment, with a computer, sofa, and TV, which simultaneously serves as a resting place and a place of work for two creative personalities, a designer and a playwright during the wide Russian military invasion of 2022.




Sounds melody of the song “Singing in the Rain”.

The light is blinking. Flash sparkles outside the window are visible. In an instant, an explosion roared.

 SHE: What is this?

HE: Another Russian rocket.

SHE: Where is it?

HE: Under the town of Brovary.

SHE: How do you know where?

HE: I look out the window.

SHE: Our World has gone crazy?

HE: A long time ago.

SHE: On the twenty-fourth of February, of the two thousand and twenty-two?

HE: No. As early as the twenty-third of February, two thousand and fourteen.

SHE: We were lucky the rockets haven’t fallen near here before…

HE: ..”You can write about pressure”?.. What kind of offer is that?..

SHE: They invite you to a festival competition again?..

HE: Yes. No. Some kind of creative competition without festivity. Someone came up with a theme: “Write a play on the topic of PRESSURE…”

SHE: And what?..

HE: “… and we will select the best works”, – they say, – “publish them in a separate collection, and the three main winners will receive awards…”

SHE: Amounts of the prize are..?

HE: Not specified.

SHE: Don’t write.

HE: Why?

SHE: Don’t waste your time on nonsense.

HE: But it is a kind of competition…

SHE: What competition?! With whom do you need to compete?!

HE: I don’t know. The letter with the offer came to me personally. At my address, in my post-box.

SHE: But you don’t know the participants in this kind of so-called “competition”, do you?

HE: No, I don’t know.

SHE: You don’t know the reward amount for the winner, do you?

HE: No, I don’t know.

SHE: Don’t you know the organizers of this “God knows what”, do you?

HE: No, I don’t know.

SHE: Although you still know very well that the organizers of this so-called “competition” themselves will be announced as winners…

HE: Well, not necessarily that primitive way, I suppose?

SHE: Or the husbands and wives of the organizers of this “competition”…

HE: Yes… But it stimulates me…

SHE: What exactly motivates you such much?

HE: They came up with a theme and they are going to compete. To organize, I mean.

SHE: WHO are you going to compete with?

HE: I do not know… But Sherstiuk will definitely put something on of his own plays.

SHE: Shut up!

HE: Even so…

SHE: And what do you get out of that?

HE: I will write better than he can for sure…

SHE: And will you get the first prize?

HE: I will get it…

SHE: Without even knowing what the amount of the prize could be?

HE: Well, the situation in the country is very difficult now, it is hard with money – they could give at least something, and then, you know…

SHE: I would not let my husband be humiliated in this way!

HE: How do I suppose to BE HUMILIATED, dear?

SHE: You are ready to write anything for anyone, and even free all your days and nights!

HE: But… It is an exciting topic…

SHE: Which one?

HE: Pressure.

SHE: Are you concerned about the topic of pressure?

HE: Not really am…

SHE: Can’t you come up with a theme for your next play by yourself?

HE: I can… But it’s always that hard, to find a topic, to come up with a name…

SHE: Of course, you’ve been neglecting my request to write an essay based on my mom’s biography for eight last years!

HE: …A play on the theme of a mother-in-law?..

SHE: My mother! She is the widow of a military man! Her husband – my dad – was a hero!

HE: Oh, about this kind of pressure…

SHE: And on which side do you feel the pressure: on my part, or on the part of my mother, in whose apartment we live now?!

HE: We live here temporarily…

SHE: Ha! There is nothing more permanent than all this kind of “temporary”!

HE: And so I will write. Decisively. Pressure is mine. Someone lives under pressure, and my pressure lives inside me. 147/100! …Half of the Captopress pill, a full Corvalment pill, and a… Wait…

(Searches around.)

HE (Continues.): … I will find it. Here. I found! That is Eureka! And still, once again, I immediately forgot the name of a play I had just invented…

SHE: This is because of me..?

HE: No, darling, I forgot it all by myself. Because I haven’t approved this topic to myself, I haven’t experienced it, I haven’t gotten along with it.

SHE: With her…?

HE: With the subject… (Rummaging through his pockets.)



The same. In the previous place.

(The light flashes. A flash sparkles outside the window. A roaring of an explosion.)

SHE: Oh, God?!

HE: No, it’s not Him. It’s another Russian missile.

SHE: Where did it fall?

HE: Somewhere near Vasylkiv.

SHE: How can you be sure of that?

HE: It can be to the South of us, somewhere near the Odessa Highway.

SHE: They’re idiots?

HE: They’re beasts.

SHE: They say Putin deceived by his advisers.

HE: Hardly. If so, all the Russians are fooled.

SHE: I’m afraid of explosions.

HE (Rummages in his pockets): Lipstick..? Why is there lipstick in my pockets?!

SHE: Oh, dear Mother, where am I?!

HE: What’s that?

SHE: Don’t make me laugh.

HE: Aha, it’s not lipstick – it’s the fudge! Okay.

SHE: And you don’t have to hint to me that I’m not preparing dinner.

HE: But what were these pills called – the third ones? I have to consume three of them.

SHE: “Glitzysed”!

HE: Who calls the pills this way? Recollecting the name of your pills you can have a stroke from that tension.

SHE: Nobody dies here pronouncing the name of the drugs.

HE (Swallows his pills. Drinks some water. Rests a bit.)


 HE: (Continues.) Actually, I was previously writing another play, but I noticed the announcement: “The playwrights’ theater could be your chance for opening. Send us two pages of your text written specifically to the Playwrights Theater – for the PRESSURE presentation. Then you can be a new discovery! Why not give it a try?”

SHE: Are you asking me? Oh! I’m shocked. At last, I’m being consulted on creative issues.

HE: “Dear Playwrights Theater, do you understand that you are my first customer?” And… E… AE. AE. The pressure increases. I’m trying to navigate how many years…

SHE: “Darling, how many years in a row does my creative inaction last?”

HE: Brigade contracting, sole proprietorship, Joint Stock Company, LLC, DERZHUPR, Private customer…

SHE: “… my beloved, or the girl I would like to fall in love with, my boss, the doorman in front of the restaurant door, the policeman who led me somewhere… But anyone could ignite me with some idea, and I followed them like a little calf…”

HE: When was it that someone would come to me with a suggestion?

SHE: I approached you with an offer!

HE: Why so that I would take you to my apartment?

SHE: Well… Is this a suggestion, is it?

HE: Pancake is gleeful! Don’t give me sugar!

SHE: Where do you have sugar? I drink your coffee without sugar for the third day in a row, but it turns out, in fact – you do have sugar!

HE: Full of sugar is Vermouth.

SHE: What is Vermouth?

HE: That’s what you drink!

SHE: It’s “Martini.”

HE: …Let it be… (He sits down in a “lotus” pose, and exposes his fingers in front of him, trying to calm down.)

SHE: Martini.

HE: Okay. I’m a marten – and you’re a seagull. PRESSURE!!!

SHE: What is “pressure”?

HE: It needs to be knocked down.

SHE: Are you an anti-aircraft gunner?

HE: No. I am hypertensive.

SHE: Oh, come on, are we all just going to calm down?

HE: I’m calm. I’m trying to get into this new play of mine.

SHE: And I’m calm. Where’s your sugar?

HE: This way I was referring to my pressure!!!



The same. Ibid.

(The light flashes. A flash sparkles outside the window. A roaring explosion.)

SHE (Covered with a blanket.)So what was that? Did that Russian rocket hit us?

HE: No, it did not hit us.

SHE: Why are you so sure of that?

HE: If it hit us, we would not have heard anything, and we would not have felt anything.

SHE: And where did it hit?

HE: It looks like it hits some building near the Central Railway station.

SHE: Do you think so?

HE: I see this directly through the glass of our window.

SHE: Mother of God, when will this stop?

HE: They say they have two thousand similar missiles.

SHE: And how many have they already shot to us?

HE: I do not know. They shoot in many cities, not only in Kyiv.

SHE: Is there anything you can do to prevent the Russians from shooting at us?

HE: We need to put international pressure on Moscow. Maybe then Russians could stop their war against Ukraine.

SHE: Do you have a weapon..?

HE: No. I do not have a weapon.

SHE: You must buy yourself some guns.

HE: Why?

SHE: To kill the Russians when they come.

HE: There are a lot of them…

SHE: I know, but only a few Russians will come through our door inside with their desire to kill you and rape me, and eventually kill me too.

HE: The government does not allow us to own guns.

SHE: Why?

HE: The government believes that with weapons in our hands, we will take to the streets and kill each other mostly.

SHE: Why would we have to kill each other when at this time Russian missiles are destroying our cities? After the Russian tanks rush into our cities and destroy the remains of our houses, Russian soldiers come after their tanks to kill all of us.

HE: I do not know. The government governs us and relies on its advisers’ advice.

SHE: Is our government protect itself the same way?

HE: Yes, our Government is guarded by enough quantity of armed men.

SHE: Then some of us here obviously went crazy.

HE: Who?

SHE: The Russians. Our Government. Their Advisers. Maybe you and me?

HE: You reason logically. I understand your logic. I suppose, you and I so far are definitely not crazy.

SHE: So, are you going to buy a gun?

HE: Do you really want me to buy myself a weapon?

SHE: I want to.

HE: I do not think one should spend money on weapons.

SHE: Having our limited financial resources, they say, we must not.

HE: I’ll wait for the time when automatic assault rifles are wallowing in the streets.

SHE: And could that happen even here?

HE: Maybe, though, it’s not guaranteed that it’s bound to happen.

SHE: And how are we supposed to live in those wild conditions?

HE: In order not to scramble against the machine guns on the sidewalks, people will push them aside with their feet, making room for themselves to pass.

SHE: And you…?

HE: And I’ll pick up a couple of guns for myself, and bring them home.

SHE: And then our apartment..?

HE: Be turned into a long-term firing point.

SHE: We will defend ourselves against the Russians! We will shoot from our balcony, we will shoot from the windows in the living room and from the window in the kitchen!

HE: I’m afraid, darling, that instead of that we’ll be sitting in the bathroom without a hitch for a while.

SHE: Holding the defense?!

HE: No, waiting for the end of the Russian air ride.

SHE: You have to provide our family with weapons!

HE: Against whom?

SHE: Against our enemies!


SHE (Continues)… Are you hesitant?

HE: No. Weigher never hesitate.

SHE: Hesitant weigher.

HE: Could be this and that.

SHE: Do you want to offend me again? I am not too fat. I am slim.

HE: I will weigh that issue, but you don’t put pressure on me, okay?

SHE: What does the pressure have to do with it? Don’t distract my attention – you just said: that you have sugar.

HE: Yes. Sugar.

SHE: Well?

HE: And when the percentage of sugar in the blood continues to rise, it provokes high blood pressure.

SHE: So what?

HE: And it puts dark in my eyes.

SHE: I already see everything through the twilight here.

HE: It is blue.

SHE: And I see it gray.

HE: Because you walk around here having your sunglasses on.

SHE: Why?

HE: Because you were skiing in Protasiv Yar on your snowboard. And after that you returned home all wet, having your sucks around your neck. Without a hat! You wore the other man’s ski pants, and when I informed you about it, you replied that you could not go home in underwear because you were in undercover!!! Because of the glitter of the too white snow, you got “night blindness”!

SHE: And you! (Bites her tongue.)


SHE (Continues.): And I got “snow blindness”! Not a night one!!! You are an annoying chauvinist man! There are other individuals next to you here. Individuals with a different vision of the world, with a different position, with different inclinations, with a different orientation! There is nothing funny about that!!!

HE: I’ll remember that.

SHE: Write it to yourself somewhere!

HE: About whom?

SHE: Me.

HE: Can’t you write it down for yourself?

SHE: Nope!

HE: Why..?

SHE: Because my hands are bandaged.

HE: That is because I put bandages on you, and I advised you to wear sunglasses.

SHE: Well…?

HE: And you haven’t dumped them since then.

SHE: Because I have my right!

HE: Okay-okay…

SHE: Don’t put your pressure on me!

HE: What pressure can I put pressure on you?

SHE: You looked at me after snowboarding in such a way if I owe you!

HE: No, no, no. Wait. It’s my pressure.

SHE: Which one?

HE: Blood pressure.

SHE: Which group?

HE: I don’t know. It is pressing – and that’s it.

SHE: It’s you who put pressure on me!

HE: Me..?

SHE: You!

HE: I can’t put pressure on you. I meet you for the first time in my life just two hours ago. You came to me wet and I invited you to dry your clothes…

SHE: I know these tricks! Undress, dear, we will dry all your clothes. And then – bam! I’m already wandering somewhere in the middle of the city, having wet men’s ski pants on!



The same. Ibid.

(The light flashes. A flash sparkles outside the window. A roaring explosion comes.)

 SHE: Are we still alive..?

HE: Yes, you heard the explosion.

SHE: That is, “not ours”…

HE: This Russian missile hit someone else.

SHE: And where did that someone else live?!

HE: It looks like it happens somewhere behind Vyshgorod.

SHE: Is Kyiv so small that we hear explosions of the Russian missiles falling all the way somewhere in the suburbs of the city?!

HE: No. It is just the missiles are so powerful that their explosions are heard from afar.

SHE: And what are they called?

HE: Differently. But I imagine that each of them is “Satan.”

SHE: Some a diabolical name…?

HE: The Russians are aware that by killing Ukrainians they are doing the job of the devil.

SHE: Put a cross on you.

HE: Why?

SHE: You’ve uttered bad words twice.

HE: Which of them?

SHE: …Satan and devil…

HE: Now you have to put a cross on you.

SHE: I am not a churchgoer.

HE: Russian rockets do not care.

SHE: Then I’ll put a cross on me.

(Both impose on them cross signs.)

HE: I understand you. You need to lower the pressure too.

SHE: Martini.

HE: Okay, martini. There’s still one in the locker.

SHE: And coffee must be with sugar!

HE: I’ll look out.

SHE: What were you doing here when I came?!

HE: I wrote a play…

SHE: Are you a scribe? Are you no longer an anti-aircraft gunner? And you are already not a tank destroyer?!

HE: No, dear. I’m not a fighter. You entered…

SHE: Appeared. Ladies show up.

HE: Yes, yes, wonderful, amazingly appeared…

SHE: So what?

HE: I wrote another play all by myself then. Lonely.

SHE: And now?

HE: Oh! Now I am writing a play with you.


HE: Oh, sorry, about you. You finally showed up…

SHE: As a genius of pure beauty..?

HE: Absolutely. Can I lie down a little bit..?

SHE: What did you write?

HE: That was the play: “A UFO does not fall twice into the same place.”

SHE: Who is the author?

HE: Me.

SHE: Who am I?

HE: Well, it depends…

SHE: From what?

HE: From whom? From the Author.

SHE: And..?

HE: This is a play by Volodymyr Serdiuk.

SHE: With the characters?

HE: Yes, there are several actors out there.

SHE: What characters?

HE: Well, if from the outside of the alien starship – then: Taxi Driver, Policeman, Beauty from the Bar…

SHE: It’s me.

HE: Priest…

SHE: It’s you.

HE: And inside the alien starship – there: Female alien…

SHE: It’s me.

HE: Male alien…

SHE: It’s you.

HE: Alien leader…

SHE: What kind of bullshit is that?! Where on the other planet do you find a leader? Cheerleader, maybe?

HE: A Tiger Cub…

SHE: Oh, the Tiger Cub is good.

HE: A Living iguana…

SHE: That is me again.

HE: Dead iguana with two bitten-off legs…

SHE: It cannot be!!!! (Looks at her bandaged hands.) WHERE am I?!!

(The next Russian missile explodes. The light goes out.)

 A LOUD VOICE SOUNDS OUT OF NOWHERE: “The pressure is rising! Please dredge the hatches! Until the next solar system – the flight will last the next two hundred years. Good night!”

Russian Racket in Ukraine
Russian bombardment of Ukraine

(A nice tune heard. A theme from the movie “A 2001 Space Odyssey.”)



© Volodymyr Serdiuk. Kyiv, Ukraine. February 2022.

huzul@ukr. net


play ukrainian dramaturgy війна драматургія п'єса


Ukrainian Marine Corp
Морська піхота 2022


A play by Volodymyr Serdiuk

Edited by John Freedman



Two men in uniform, one a Ukrainian Soldier the other a Marine Captain

Two men in white togas

Two persons – a Doctor and a Nurse


(All may be the same two Actors dressed in different costumes.)



The stage is empty and dark.

Lights are dim. Only the Main Characters are readily visible.

We see nothing behind the actors, nor before them.




SOLDIER (Shouts into the darkness): Ahoy, there! Captain! There, in the ferry!


SOLDIER: Sailor to sailor!

CAPTAIN: I see you clearly.

SOLDIER: What place is that?

CAPTAIN: Planet Earth.

SOLDIER: Inside or outside?

CAPTAIN: Upside down.

SOLDIER: As it always was during that damned War.

CAPTAIN: Don’t be startled by Wars. They happen often.

SOLDIER: Your wisdom is too familiar to me.

CAPTAIN: Some things will never change.

SOLDIER: Will you take me north?

CAPTAIN: Do you have a coin, man?

SOLDIER: Yes, pressed between my jaws.

CAPTAIN: All right. Then why not?

SOLDIER: I used to be a sailor, too.

CAPTAIN: Really?

SOLDIER: Yes. Somewhere far from here – near the Arctic Circle.

CAPTAIN: I’ll witness, it’s cold enough there.

SOLDIER: One can imagine!

CAPTAIN: And it’s dark.

SOLDIER: So what? I got used to these conditions while sailing there.

CAPTAIN: You people are very funny, always telling me big stories.

SOLDIER: Tell that to the sailors.

CAPTAIN: You’re a newcomer, I suppose. A foreigner, I see?

SOLDIER: I am that.

CAPTAIN: A refugee?

SOLDIER: A soldier.

CAPTAIN: For the sake of Hercules, what brought you here?




(Lights out. When lights return we see both men equally in white togas. Charon holds an oar in his hand.)


SOLDIER: I am not from these parts.

CHARON: I see. What is the aim of your visit?

SOLDIER: My daughter’s wedding here in Amsterdam.

CHARON: Do you believe you are in Amsterdam?

SOLDIER: Where else, in the name of God?

CHARON: Quite nice to hear that. What is the groom’s name?


CHARON: You mean the one in the folk tale who encountered Gooey the Giant?

SOLDIER: Another one, even wiser, I think.

CHARON: How is life there in general? Are prices high? What about the currency rate exchange?

SOLDIER: Do you think I know?

CHARON: They say it’s hard to amass capital in these days of instability.

SOLDIER: No. It’s vice versa – everything I see there is rather cheap.

CHARON: How could that be?

SOLDIER: Ministers, government people, salaries, cities, buildings, people’s lives – all blown sky-high, ruined and scattered on the wind for half price. Practically for nothing.

CHARON: What country did you leave?

SOLDIER: Ukraine.

CHARON: A rich land, I have heard.

SOLDIER: War finished that.

CHARON: War against whom? There are many tribes living in Europe.

SOLDIER: Russians.

CHARON: Do they come so far?

SOLDIER: Our neighbors are our curse.

CHARON: Shit happens. Did you fight?

SOLDIER: Still fighting now.

CHARON: Is this so hard?

SOLDIER: They outnumber us by too many.

CHARON: Were you good there? In War, I mean.

SOLDIER: Oh, yes, I cut many of them up there.

CHARON: What happened to you this time?

SOLDIER: There was an unexpected flash of light. It was as if I were flying. And now I am here.

CHARON: Do you feel pain?

SOLDIER: Not at all. I feel great joy. I killed my enemies.

CHARON: Not all of them yet.

SOLDIER: I know. My brothers continue and are close to finishing the job.

CHARON: Was it hard to fight the intruders there?

SOLDIER: Yes, it was hard standing up to them. War itself is hard.

CHARON: Are you able to go on rest and recuperation from the front lines?

SOLDIER: There are rotations, yes. When they draw you back from the front lines. But not for long.

CHARON: Then they put you back in the trenches again without proper rest?

SOLDIER: Shit happens, you know. You’ll never be happy. No matter what happens. One of my brothers came to Bukovina for a seven-day vacation from the front line. And what do you think? He’s now organizing a funeral for his wife’s cousin who was shot by the Russians at that same front line back there, near Donetsk City.


CHARON: What a sad coincidence.


SOLDIER: These are not coincidences. War follows us whenever we go.


CHARON: My condolences. So, it may happen in the future that your brother will have to bury you during his short home leave.


SOLDIER: Why would he bury me? I must first be killed before I am buried!




SOLDIER:  Obviously, I’m still alive!


CHARON: It’s just a guess.


SOLDIER: Please, never guess in wartime! Just go out and fight! Who told you he would be burying me! That’s damned nonsense!


CHARON: Please accept my apologies, my man! The tongue contains no bones, as you know.


SOLDIER: I have nothing against you personally. It’s just that I’m against being killed and taking on rigor mortis!


(Both laugh)



CHARON: You’re talkative. I like to talk.

SOLDIER: Like every sailor.

CHARON: Right.

SOLDIER: What about the other passengers?

CHARON: They’re motionless. They don’t talk a lot.

SOLDIER: I am glad. At last, you have met a polyglot.

CHARON: That happens sometimes. Not often.

SOLDIER: Still, was there anyone among them like me?

CHARON: Even worse. One was here for three days. I called him Tusitala, the Teller of Tales.

SOLDIER: I know his books! I know his name! Robert Louis Stevenson!

CHARON: What does the word “books” means?

SOLDIER: A stack of printed pages.

CHARON: I see. A mountain of pride.

SOLDIER: He was a masterful writer though.

CHARON: As were his conversations when he was here.

SOLDIER: So, you decide who goes, and who stays?

CHARON: Not quite. I can only stop them. Nothing more.

SOLDIER: Still, it’s is a big deal. You did not do well by me today. But I feel you are a good man.

CHARON: Like every man.

SOLDIER: Not on the average.

CHARON: We all have families and children – among them we behave.

SOLDIER: Agreed. Our duties tells us to be brave.

CHARON: Yes… However, what duties?

SOLDIER: Yours, for example – to carry men and baggage.

CHARON: Baggage, not so much. Mostly men. They come here like children. With their toys in hand, and dressed so strangely.

SOLDIER: Did you notice that too? They are naked as if going to take a bath or something.

CHARON: Yes, I’m used to seeing them this way. I never ask for explanations.

SOLDIER: That doesn’t concern me. You are speaking to me. Explain it.

CHARON: You are a sailor. You all are talkative.

SOLDIER: Oh, yes!

CHARON: How long do your journeys usually last? Where were you headed?

SOLDIER: For a half a year, or even nine months and a half. Mainly to the North. Where the fish are.

CHARON: It depends on the winds…

SOLDIER: We can sail against the wind.

CHARON: Come now! You must be kidding. How can a sail work against its nature? When your sail catches the wind, your vessel will move only in that direction.

SOLDIER: We use machines to move.

CHARON: Machines to sail? Your words are obscure.

SOLDIER: Machines moved us to the brink of our limitations.

CHARON: I knew there was nothing good in those inventions.

SOLDIER: Yes, not always. Atomic bombs are pure evil.

CHARON: What bombs? What are they like?

SOLDIER: Like a Greek conflagration, you know. Just multiplied by the millions.

CHARON: Are you a mathematician? You speak of digits.

SOLDIER: No. I cannot even multiply. I use my digital telephone to count.

CHARON: A telephone is for listening!

SOLDIER: Oh well, nowadays “telephone” is just a word for another device.

CHARON: Okay. So, how many of you were on board when sailing?

SOLDIER: There were twenty of us.

CHARON: Come now! Who moved the machines then? Don’t say it was steam? That is awkward!

SOLDIER: Our fuel is called diesel. And there’s another word: solar.

CHARON: Finally. So, the sun still exists.

SOLDIER: Oh yes. And it’s a heavy one in the south of Ukraine.

CHARON: Speak slowly now. Are people using solar energy now?

SOLDIER: For quite a long time.

CHARON: Explain this so that I understand – the sun beats on us. That is all the sun does. How one can use that energy?

SOLDIER: I don’t know. For you to understand it – imagine the sun heating a table, for example…


SOLDIER: This part is warm.


SOLDIER: That part is cold.

CHARON: Of course.

SOLDIER: The difference in the temperature between the parts increases.

CHARON: So it is.

SOLDIER: The contrast between them produces energy.

CHARON: You can retain that?

SOLDIER: In storage.

CHARON: And then what?

SOLDIER: When you need it, you free it, and it moves the gears in motors that move ships.

CHARON: Sheeps?

SOLDIER: No. Sheeps are moved by politicians. Sea vessels are moved by machines that drive propellers.

CHARON: No sails?

SOLDIER: No sails.

CHARON: No oars?

SOLDIER: They still exist for sports.

CHARON: What a relief – they still exist. It’s nice to hear you have such sophisticated means there.

SOLDIER: They also kill us…

CHARON: Evidently, since you are here. But, thanks to them you lived an easy life before.

SOLDIER: To some extent.

CHARON: To this very extent right here. To these very Dire Straits.


(Both laugh.)


CHARON: I will tell you something – in this darkness and with things such a mess, I may not take aboard some souls. I may refuse.

SOLDIER: How does your manager react to that?

CHARON: There are many, and they often forget their own commands and commandments. Still, I do not like their decision to put me here in darkness.

SOLDIER: I know how you feel. There, in the south of Ukraine, the ground is like stone and they constantly order us to dig in our trucks. And you know what? The next day we leave that place and sleep in the trucks while moving.

CHARON: Does that make you angry?

SOLDIER: No. But why did they make dig trenches before marching on?

CHARON: No logic.

SOLDIER: None at all.

CHARON: That’s the way Wars go. So. Go away now.

SOLDIER: Why? I thought we had a deal?

CHARON: About what?

SOLDIER: About helping me cross the river.

CHARON: Not even my own foot ever touched the opposite bank of that river.

SOLDIER: So… I must return to survive another ordeal again, something that I already experienced?

CHARON: Don’t you worry. There will be no suffering in the end.

SOLDIER: Are you sure?

CHARON: The ancient Greeks knew this well.

SOLDIER: Our elders warned us of great pain.

CHARON: No, I tell you. The last moments of every death are ecstatic.

SOLDIER: What the hell? That’s nonsense!

CHARON: Pain will lift your spirit before your soul shall fly.

SOLDIER: How is that?

CHARON: You will feel the joy of expecting happiness.

SOLDIER: Are you lying to me?

CHARON: My decision is that I shall not let you disappear there in the darkness.

SOLDIER: But I must!

CHARON: Who told you that? I am in charge here. Go, now. Return to where you belong.

SOLDIER: Shall we meet again? I like our talks.

CHARON: As do I. We shall meet some day.

SOLDIER: And for now?

CHARON: Now you are free. Forget the fairytales you heard about me.

SOLDIER: What else can you say?

CHARON: Try twice as hard in everything you do there. Try your very best.

SOLDIER: Will we win?

CHARON: You will win.




On stage – a hospital operation room. Bright light. Blood. Dirt. An unexpected loud cry.


DOCTOR: Here he is. Here he is. Alive. May you live a long life, soldier.


(Nurse catches Doctor from behind, stopping him from falling. Helps him sit on chair.)


NURSE: Thank you, doctor. You have done the impossible. You have accomplished an impossible operation.

DOCTOR: I did my best. I am tired.

NURSE: Why did he cry out so hard? He was under deep anesthesia.


DOCTOR: The brain functions even under anesthesia. We do not know what places his soul visited as he crossed over to the other side. We do not know what circles of hell he passed through on his journey back here.


NURSE: They who return, often say they felt better there.


DOCTOR: Well, this world is far from ideal, am I not right?


NURSE: Oh, yes, you are right.


DOCTOR: Probably, because of that, he felt better being there.


NURSE: As if he were finally at home.


DOCTOR: All are but visitors who inhabit this world.


DOCTOR (mumbling): What an old jackass that Charon is. He’s joking again… it’s not the first time… I hope it won’t be the last.


Ukraine, July 2022                                                                     huzul@ukr.net


play ukrainian dramaturgy war війна драматургія п'єса сучасна українська драматургія

AM I TOO OLD FOR WAR? A play by Volodymyr Serdiuk

Старий АКМ


A play by Volodymyr Serdiuk

Characters:     1. Me. A civilian male over 60, with a backpack, bottle of water, shovel and axe.

  1. Sergeant. Woman in a military uniform.
  2. Voice.

Settings: The Characters at a table.


ACT 1.




ME: … … … ???


ME: What?!!

SERGEANT: You’re next.

ME: Oh, right. Is this where one enlists in the Veterans for Active Service?

SERGEANT: Yes, sir. What is your military rank?

ME: Senior Sergeant.

SERGEANT: Military Specialization?



ME: Air Defense Systems.

SERGEANT: Oh, right. What is your age, sir?

ME: There is a line in my Military ID that mentions the weapon I mastered.

SERGEANT: What is your age, sir? Precisely.

ME: Sixty-five. Sex-TY Five, you know.

SERGEANT: With all due respect, sir, at your age you’d be better off going home to take it easy.

ME: I am a good, experienced veteran.

SERGEANT: Not now, sir.

ME: Damn. If you had been at Yellow River in 1974 I would have shown you what a hot shot I am!

SERGEANT: I was not even born then, sir.

ME: Yippy!

SERGEANT: Control yourself, sir.

ME: I said nothing obscene about you!

SERGEANT: Except “yippy,” sir.

ME: I meant boogieing the night away, ducktail shaking on your head.

SERGEANT: That somehow sounds offensive, sir.

ME: Not at all. That’s how we usually looked in those years.

SERGEANT: I see. You mean the era of pyramid pants, sir?

ME: No. I mean the era of handmade bell-bottom denim trousers.

SERGEANT: With all due respect, sir, there is no Yellow River in this country.

ME: It’s in the Far East.

SERGEANT: I’m sorry, sir. But today’s Army will do fine without you.

ME: Why?

SERGEANT: Because if I don’t understand what you’re saying, I don’t think other soldiers will either, sir.

ME: So?

SERGEANT: Communicating with you would be rather problematic on the battlefield, sir.

ME: You mean you won’t even give me some rusty old AK-47?

SERGEANT: No, sir.

ME: I could…

SERGEANT: Next, please!



All the men in line simultaneously take one step forward.

I was not kicked out of the office.

I left voluntarily, stepping aside and going out.

This was Day Two of the Russian Military Invasion of Ukraine. February 25, 2022. Kyiv.

Another veteran, much older than I, stood outside the office. He tried to mount his bicycle and fell over.

I helped him back on his feet and offered him my adrenaline booster pills.

He proudly refused them.

What an arrogant old man, I thought to myself.

SOUNDS OF THE SONG:  “…And I think to myself – What a Wonderful World…”


February 2022, Kyiv, Ukraine