I feel like I know Anna Sushko. In our play the young girl Katya, home after the evacuation, asks a passing soldier to:

Find Anna Sushko for us.

I will describe her to you and you find her.  She lived alone.  No one knows how old she is.  During the resettlement she was taken away in an ambulance in an unknown direction.  She never learned to read and write, so we have no letters from her.  The solitary and sick were placed in asylums.  Hidden away.  But no one knows the address.    She’s an innocent soul suffering in an alien world.

I always pictured this woman as Anna:

original painting by Tisha Terrasini, based on photography of Chornobyl

I think of Anna on Earth Day because she is fiercely tied to the earth. Especially as played by Enci, an actress of incredible depth, Anna is a combination of interviews given by various women, the re-settlers, who returned to Chornobyl after being evacuated because they simply cannot conceive of living anywhere else.

Enci in rehearsal: "Mother, we're leaving. I'm taking some of your earth to guide me back home."

(Clearly, Enci is much younger than the inspiration.) Anna’s connection to her home was one of the qualities that drew me to her as we adapted the play. In order to understand a different culture’s mindset, we had to see how closely their lives are bound to the earth, a bind that now will hurt them.

I always enter these anniversary readings with the question of why? If we know exactly why these stories need to be told then we know our purpose. Before current events brought the word “Chernobyl” into every day vocabulary again, our need to tell the stories stemmed from their connection to their land. It still does. The difference is that people like Anna feel a deep connection to their earth, yet didn’t fully comprehend the technology just a few miles away. They understood its importance to their region, but (most) did not understand potential consequences.

Very few people I know in the United States have that connection with the earth, nor do they have knowledge of the world around them. I am often one of those people, although I work on it all the time. So although the meaning behind our Anniversary Events is not as clear as pro or anti nuclear power, not as clear as the recently-viewed documentary “Bag It,” our hope is that all leave with the idea to learn more about the world around you and how we are all connected to it.