Les Pages Noires Productions and Babushka Theatre present

Run Nawrocki Run! Escape from Banff Prison – June 20 to July 4, 2022

A Ukrainian Canadian WW1 story of courage—dream, resist, escape

Written & performed by Norman Nawrocki
Music by Norman & Vivian Nawrocki

“Oh Canada, land of hope and promise, how you use and deceive us.”– Nestor

Acclaimed Montreal playwright/actor/musician Norman Nawrocki blends Canadian history, emigration, racism, wartime hysteria, Ukrainian folkloric medicinal rituals, music and legend together with family memories into this compelling tale about hope, courage and resistance.

The 40-minute multimedia production brings to light the little-known but shamefully true WW1 incarceration and exploitation of 9,000 mostly Ukrainian Canadian immigrants in forced labour camps across Canada. In Run Nawrocki Run! Escape from Banff Prison, Nestor, an unemployed Ukrainian Canadian citizen, is nabbed by the police, imprisoned and forced to do slave labour in a federal concentration camp near Banff Alberta. Despite the brutal, tortuous conditions, he rebels, dreams and conspires to escape. His Baba (grandmother), a folk healer in Ukraine, works her magic to help him. This was Canada’s first coast-to-coast internment operation; June 20 honours the anniversary of its end and is also World Refugee Day.

“An important story to tell & to remember.”—David Gray, CBC Calgary Eyeopener

Nawrocki wrote Run Nawrocki Run! Escape from Banff Prison because of all the stories told and untold passed down through his family about the discrimination, suffering, humiliation, deprivation and misery that they endured for decades, simply for being Ukrainian. “I did this play to honour my Baba and my Dido; all the generations of my family, known and unknown. I created this piece to inform and educate the public about this terrible injustice in the hope that people think about not only the past, but also the present and future; the situation of immigrants, migrants, refugees and others, and how we can avoid repeating this violation of fundamental human rights,” he said.

“One day we’re citizens living free, and then we’re enemies and aliens. Overnight, everything changes.” — Nestor

The story is particularly personal for Nawrocki. A fan wrote to him after finding his family name on a list of Canadian civilian internees from WW1. After some research, Nawrocki discovered that three distant family members from both his father’s and mothers’ side were imprisoned in Alberta between 1915 and 1920. Run Nawrocki Run! Escape from Banff Prison pays tribute to one of those relatives who successfully escaped from Castle Mountain in Banff National Park, the most inhumane of the 24 internment camps. “I wanted to talk about his courage, his fortitude and his temerity to think about and execute an escape. I salute him, and sincerely hope I have honoured his life as a person of worth, and dare I say, a heroic figure,” said Nawrocki.

The play is also a joyous call to rebellion. Nestor, prisoner of war #158, is inspired and inspires, and despite all the odds, he never loses hope. He demonstrates what’s possible; how to find the courage within us all to work with others for our collective freedom.

The show was filmed live in Montreal’s historic Gaston-Miron Building, with footage from Rawdon, Quebec, Banff and Vancouver.

The eye-opening Run Nawrocki Run! Escape from Banff Prison runs from June 20-July 4 on Nawrocki’s YouTube channel. Tickets are free, with donations (with tax receipt) to Fundacja Folkowisko Foundation gratefully appreciated.

Monday, June 20 (7:30 EDT) to Monday, July 4 (midnight EDT)