At just 16, Alan was on the brink of achieving his dreams when war broke out in Ukraine.

As a budding young actor, for him the auditions had come flooding in after securing a small part in one of the country’s most popular romantic dramas, Love in Chains, the equivalent he says to the UK’s Bridgerton.

Also, a regular cast member of a children’s YouTube show, Alan was just days away from the biggest audition of his life, when the first bombs hit his homeland.

“I was so close to everything I had been working for, when everything changed in a moment,” he said. “It felt like the beginning and the end of everything.”

Today, he is living with a sponsor family in Yarm, with his mum, sister, and grandfather. Studying acting at Stockton Riverside College, he knows he is among the lucky ones.

Every day he hears news of family, friends and loved ones back in Ukraine, and he said: “I don’t think that anyone can understand what it is to wake up on a morning waiting for that message to come and to hear the worst.”

Now at 18 he has put those experiences, and those of people around him, into a script that is among nine selected from 468 submissions to be read on stage as part of the National Theatre’s New Views Festival.

“It feels like a story that needs to be told,” he said. “I used my story as inspiration, but it includes the experiences of lots of other people, those that I have seen and heard from relatives and friends.”

To have the script professionally read on stage, he added: “It feels like the right way to honour all those who have lost their lives.”

Alan was just five days away from his biggest audition yet, a production by the same makers of Love in Chains, when he woke to the sound of the explosions.

Fleeing their home close to Kyiv, he said the following days and weeks were spent mostly in fear, particularly when the Russian tanks rolled into the village they had fled to, just hours after their arrival.

He explained how days and nights were spent hiding in a bunker, “just an underground fridge really, where you would store potatoes”, with no electricity, light or warm water.

A small window of just seven hours ceasefire gave them the opportunity to escape.  He recalled up to 20 people, pregnant women, children, and new-born babies, all crammed in one vehicle. When they got to the destroyed bridge, he carried children through the water.

Heading west, he said: “I remember the station in Kyiv, there were so many people, lots of mums and children. There was a person that couldn’t fit on the train, so we threw our suitcases away to make room.”

Their journey over the following weeks took the family from Lviv to Poland, Germany, Paris and Spain, before they finally got chance to join a sponsor family in the UK.  

“So many people have helped us, and we are so grateful,” he said. “Our sponsors are incredible people.”

Alan explained starting college has offered a little normality, but while he knows it would be better to try and protect himself from the news back home, he can’t help but check his phone.

He said: “I have always been mature for my age, but now I am more so than ever before.  People say, now you can live your new life, and at first I thought, yes! But now I know you can never forget what happened, I have lost too much to forget, and there are so many people who have lost so much more.”

“I hope the war will end soon, and everything will be fine. My script, “Snowdrop”, is my hope and my pain, and the pain of millions of Ukrainians who have lost so much. I feel honoured for that story to be told.”

DSC 0012 Alan Tarkil Love In Chains DSC 0034
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