During WW2, under Stalin's regime, many 'undesirable' citizens were deported, often thousands of miles from their homes. 

Peeling Onions with Granny began as a collective of six artists of Polish and Latvian heritage with a direct connection to this history.

We have expanded the collective to include other creative practitioners with stories to tell of exile, refuge, migration, journey and 'arrival'. These stories cross generations and countries. Although they carry intense and personal emotional connections, it is our desire that they speak to a universal audience and with a relevance to 'the now' as much as to their historical contexts.


Latvian WW2 History Timeline   PDF 58KB

Information about deportations from Poland:

Next event:
at the Essex Book Festival

Harlow Playhouse
Saturday 21st March 2020

Arriving somewhere new can be daunting. It can also be exhilarating. The performance group Peeling Onions with Granny have been reflecting on their own stories of journeying and arrival. The stories incorporate themes of migration, forced displacement and war-time evacuation. In this performance, they will share these stories with you. There will also be an opportunity for audience members to share their own stories of journeying and arrival.

Free Event - but booking is essential


Past events:

Reading Assembly: Movement
with the University of Reading

Tate Exchange, Tate Modern
Sunday 3rd March 2019


In rehearsal for 'The Arrival Lounge'

A new play by Nicola Werenowska

What holds families together?
What tears them apart? 
What's brewing in the silences?

1996. London. It's Ewa's birthday. Her daughter Anna is coming home from university with a secret to share but Maria has some news of her own. As wartime memories of Siberia resurface, old steps are retraced to uncover the secrets of the past and a Polish heritage that unites and divides them.

Nicola Werenowska's funny and fascinating new play hurtles between Warsaw and London over two decades and three generations of a Polish/British family.

Friday 12th - Saturday 20th October 2018

Mercury Theatre,
Balkerne Gate, Colchester CO1 1PT


Touring to Liverpool, Lancaster, York, Ipswich, Canterbury,
Reading & Salisbury

Press info & tour dates here


A creative response to the declarations of Polish and Latvian Independence in 1918 and the forced migrations post-WW2

Sunday 25th March 2018

Part of Essex Book Festival: The Nuclear Option

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker
Kelvedon Hall Lane CM14 5TL

Event photos:
albums/ 72157693666167441

For more information about 'Peeling Onions with Granny'
Dr. Teresa Murjas t.s.murjas@reading.ac.uk

Simon Puriņš simonpurins@gmail.com


Dr Beverley Costa

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Beverley Costa was born in London. Her maternal grandparents were born in Poland and Russia, and her father was born in Cyprus. Beverley is a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor.

She set up Mothertongue multi-ethnic counselling service in 2000 and founded The Pasalo Project in 2017 to disseminate the learning from nearly two decades of Mothertongue's service.

In 2013, Beverley established 'Colleagues Across Borders' offering pro bono peer support to refugee psychosocial workers and interpreters based in the Middle East.

Beverley is a Senior Practitioner Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London and she has written a number of papers and chapters on therapy across languages with and without an interpreter. Together with Professor Jean Marc Dewaele, they won the 2013 British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Equality and Diversity Research Award.

In 2018, she and Teresa Murjas founded the performance group
'Around the Well', which tells stories about migration and interpreting.

The Pasalo Project: https://www.pasaloproject.org/

Chris Dobrowolski

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Chris is a Colchester-based artist, writer and performance maker who will perform his one-man show All Roads Lead to Rome. Chris has lovingly repaired his family Triumph Herald Estate so that he can drive it from his childhood home in Braintree to Rome via Turin where this quintessentially English car was designed. Part investigation into his father's time as a Polish soldier in the Italian Campaign and part muse on consumerism, All Roads Lead to Rome brings together car mechanics, a road trip, dictators and the fetishisation of possessions in a solo performance using old photos, new film and surprising mechanical objects.

More about: 'All Roads Lead to Rome' and Chris's installation 'Siberia'

Elīna Kalniņa

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Elīna is a freelance Heritage Interpreter from Cēsis in Latvia. Her virtual exhibition 'Be Yourself!' (Esi Pats! in Latvian) brings together the stories of those who, as children, were part of the Soviet deportation transports from Latvia. 'Be Yourself' was shortlisted for the Japan Prize, the Education Contest for International Media:

Be Yourself! - http://www.esipats.lv/

Elīna's most recent project - 'Burning Conscience' - is a major, publically-funded permanent exhibition, housed in the ex-KGB headquarters of her home town of Cēsis. It examines the experience of Latvian resistence to totalitarian regimes between 1939 - 1957:

Magdalena Mosteanu

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Magdalena is a theatre practitioner, performer and a PhD student at FTT, University of Reading. She trained at Giedroyc College of Media and Communication (Wyższa Szkoła Komunikowania i Mediów Społecznych Jerzego Giedroycia) where she graduated with BA and MA in Acting (Warsaw, 2014)

After moving to the UK, she gained her MA in Collaborative Theatre Making at Coventry University (Coventry/London 2017) run in association with Frantic Assembly. She is currently researching in her PaR project, the implications of food and migration in performance through collaborative theatre practice.

Dr Teresa Murjas

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Teresa is Professor in Theatre & Performance at the University of Reading. She also makes creative work in a range of media. She will be showing her video and object-based installation 'Surviving Objects', which she made with her mother Irena, who was deported from Poland to Siberia with her family in 1940, when she was 3 years old. By focusing on a series of objects, the piece tells the story of Irena's six years in a British-run refugee camp in Bwana M'Kubwa, in what was then known as Rhodesia, before her journey to the UK where she now lives. For further information about Teresa's work, please see:

Adrian Pałka

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Adrian is an artist/researcher and senior lecturer in Media and Performing Arts at Coventry University. His interests are in the field of inter-disciplinary performance and installation as well as the politics, art and culture of Central and Eastern Europe.

He has worked in performance since the 1970s with performance group Bogdan Club and with the Cupboard Cabaret in the 1990s. Since 1996 he has collaborated with Berlin based artists Robert Rutman and Wolfram Der Spyra producing work incorporating Rutman's musical sculptures, the Steel Cello and Bow Chime in performances and sound installations. His recent work focuses on the overlap of sound and image projections in memorial work. This includes the installation 'Bark and Butterflies', which was the product of an artistic research trip to Siberia in 2013 following in the footsteps of an inherited war time diary (http://www.palkadiaries.com) and the film, 'Exile to Leeds 6' - shown at Leeds City Museum (October-Januray 2017/18). He has currently completed the trilogy 'Iron Curtain' a multi-media reminiscence event to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall (http://ironcurtain.coventry.ac.uk) at the Museum fuer [jugend] Widerstand, Berlin.

Critical reflections on his practice can be found in the forthcoming CDare publication, 'Digital Echoes: Spaces for Intangible and Performance Based Cultural Heritage (Palgrave MacMillan 2018)' and in the Besides the Screen publication 'Practices of Projection (OUP, 2018).'

Simon Puriņš

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Simon is a London-based Visual Artist, Filmmaker and Artist Educator-Enabler. He has worked extensively in the fields of reminiscence, memory and testimony. He is of mixed English and Latvian heritage.

In a single night of 13/14th June 1941, 15, 443 Latvian citizens were deported by the Soviet authorities, to Siberia; his grandmother Marija was one of them. 'Peeling Onions with Granny' is a short film centered around an imagined and highly-fragmented conversation-meeting between Marija and her great-granddaughter.'(Grand)Father Walking...You'll see Glimpses' (a short film premiered at 'Eastward: Sound and Silence') utilises fragments from the family archive to build a personal and emotive reflection upon his grandfather Konstantins' arrest and KGB trial in 1950, exile and repatriation to Latvia in 1956. These 2 films can be viewed at:

'Re-building' his family on the 2 edges of Europe...is an on-going life-project.

Read Marija's story: LV03-MP_sml.jpg  769KB

Some of Simon's other work with reminiscence, memory and testimony -
'Meeting in No Man's Land'  2016; 'Children of The Great War'  2015;
'The People's Portrait'
  2014 - can be found at:

James Rattee

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James is a Filmmaker and Editor based in London. He makes documentaries and short fiction films, as well as corporate and commercial videos. He currently makes short documentaries for the London School of Economics. He also has a PhD in Film from the University of Reading.

Nicola Werenowska

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After a flirtation with playwriting when she was 16 (her play “20%” was runner-up in 1988 Royal Court Young Playwrights’ Competition), Nicola began playwriting in 2003, following her life-transforming dyspraxia diagnosis. Productions include: Davy’s Day (Mercury, 2004); Peapickers (Eastern Angles, 2007); Freedoms of the Forest (Menagerie, 2008); BirthDate (Nabakov, 2012); CASH! (Mercury, 2013); Tu I Teraz (Hampstead, Nuffield, Mercury, 2012/13); Tattooed Under Your Skin (Theatre 503, 2016); Hidden (Oxford Playhouse, Marlowe, Mercury, 2017); Guesthouse (Eastern Angles, 2018); Silence (Mercury and national tour, 2018).

Her work has been longlisted for national competitions (Verity Bargate, Bruntwood, Papa Tango) and Hidden was runner up for the Mercury Prize 2016. Nicola has been on attachment to Graeae - a member of the Royal Court National writers’ group - and is playwright in residence at Lakeside Theatre. She made her radio debut in 2018 as co-writer for
BBC Radio 4’s adaptation of Little Dorrit for the 2018/19 and is a member of the BBC Writersroom Access Group. She currently has work in development with the New Wolsey Theatre, Graeae, and the Marlowe.


With the support and assistance of Photo of Marija Puriņa by Andrejs Feldmanis