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Emigration

"All that matters now is the present". Irina Chesnokova and her journey into emigration

16.12.2022

Irina Chesnokova is an actress, comedian, director, and, more recently, a founder of the start up ‘it, a bar owner, and… a political emigrant. For ten months she has been wandering the globe with one suitcase and trying to find a new home, just like many Russian artists who left their homeland in a hurry due to the war in Ukraine.

Media Loft has been following Irina's social media projects for a long time. In this article, we will talk about what it's like to start all over again after great fame, to lose the  "ground beneath your feet" and step into the unknown with your eyes wide shut.

Irina Chesnokova began her career in the student KVN, and over the 15 years of climbing the career ladder, by early 2022, was deservedly considered one of the most extraordinary actresses in Moscow. Her signature show "Bar in the Big City" thundered across the country, and it seems that all the most important Russian celebrities were guests on the project.

Irina actively and openly expressed her views on the authorities in performances and social projects, travelled around the country with lectures and workshops, and participated in collaborations with human rights organisations.

On February 24, like many of her colleagues, Irina left her home with her cat and flew away into the unknown, where she has remained for the last 10 months.

After spending the spring in Turkey, Irina and the crew of the show "Bar in the Big City" "from nothing to do" opened the bar "Meow" in the cosy resort town of Kash on the Mediterranean Sea. The space, in addition to its tremendous popularity among tourists, quickly became a place for public talks, literary readings, mono-performances and art performances in the three languages, which Irina herself speaks fluently.

Over the summer, she and a director friend teamed up to create a mono-performance in Dubai, which she began working on in July.

Balancing between trying not to go crazy from the horror of what is happening in the world, the desire to continue to make art and the new realities that have rapidly entered her life, the actress, among other things, created an it-startup.

Now her life is not only full of rehearsals, readings, and creating plays, but also of endless zoom meetings with app developers, fundraising, and web summits.

In the fall, after receiving an offer to conduct actor training for a Russian-speaking theater in London, Irina seriously considered moving to the UK. Many of her friends and colleagues had already successfully immigrated to the capital of England on the Global Talent Visa, the only thing left was to collect her acting case and try her luck.

Losing the opportunity to perform on big stages, to which Irina had become quite accustomed during her years of work in Russia, was an important boost for the actress in developing her own abilities. She now performs and writes scripts for her own theater projects, not only in Russian, but also in German and English.

Shortly before the war, Irina and a large international team were preparing to launch a sharply social immersive play about bullying in schools - now this project, apparently, will be translated into English and will find its realization on the British stage: as will Irina's 2019 One Shot Show, based on "The Misfit.”

When we asked her what she thinks will happen to her career and her future in general, Irina said,

"Everything stops making sense when there is violence. This is why our future, in the context of enormous grief, is essentially irrelevant.

The only thing that matters now is the present, where everyone can only do what they know how to do in the struggle against evil.

I will continue to speak out and influence my viewers through art. It doesn't matter how many viewers there are in the audience or what language they speak. If just one person becomes a little kinder, a little more involved, it means that I and my life's work matter.

Photos from I. Chesnokova's archive

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