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A story of friendships

Fall folklore graduate finds family in Come from Away thesis

Campus and Community

By Janet Harron

Alina Sergachov is at the start of a moment.

Alina Sergachov will collect her master of arts degree at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on Oct. 17.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The native of Belarus, who came to Newfoundland and Labrador via Israel, is graduating this week with a master of arts degree in folklore.

She devoted much of her time over the past year to a complete study of the theatrical phenomenon, Come from Away.

‘A story herself’

Ms. Sergachov interviewed everyone and anyone connected to the show – the Newfoundlanders whose stories writers David Hein and Irene Sankoff based the show on, a number of the performers, including Petrina Bromley, fans and those working behind the scenes in Toronto, New York and London.

Alina Sergachov is pictured with original Broadway cast member Petrina Bromley.
Photo: Submitted

Derm Flynn, the former mayor of Appleton, N.L., and the inspiration for one of the musical’s character studies, and his wife, Dianne, invited her to their home to discuss their Come from Away experience.

“We loved meeting her,” said Mr. Flynn. “She’s an international diplomat, as far as we’re concerned, and has such a story herself. Like the plane people, she sort of fell out of the sky – we would have adopted her if we could.”

Alina Sergachov with Dianne and Derm Flynn in Appleton, N.L.
Photo: Submitted

She watched the musical 10 times in three different countries. She shadowed the production stage manager on Broadway. She listened to the demo recording of the original student workshop in Michael Rubinoff’s, the show’s creator, office at Sheridan College.

Her study of Come from Away served as the jumping off point for her master’s project, which has been to help the general public understand the day-to-day work of theatre personnel.

Come from Away reminds me that strangers can be friends I haven’t met yet,” she explained. “Thanks to this project, I became part of a Come from Away family. To be honest, that’s what surprised me the most. The friendships I have made.”

Ms. Sergachov made the life-changing decision to attend Memorial based solely on the folklore master’s program. It was the only university she applied to. She acknowledges Pauline Cox of MUNFLA and Niraj Shukla, the Mitacs team lead for Atlantic Canada, for their support throughout her program.

Like the plane people who descended upon Gander and surrounding areas on 9/11, Ms. Sergachov has no idea what’s next for her.

But she’s adamant about staying in Newfoundland and Labrador, a place she says she is honoured to call home.

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