An Incredible Tale Told in XIV Scenes
The story was inspired by Elijah Klimovitch who was active in the Polish North-Eastern region of Białostoczyzna before the war. He believed himself to be the biblical prophet Ilya: he built an Orthodox church in a settlement named Wierszalin where he founded a New Jerusalem and soon gathered a group of devout followers.
When Ilya announced that the end of the world was near, his faithful worshippers awaited the apocalypse, yet, as their wait seemed to be in vain, they decided they needed to help hasten the course of mankind’s history. The employed the familiar scenario of the Gospel’s crucifixion and nailed their prophet to the cross just like Jesus. Thus, Ilya’s story becomes also the tale of a group of people who desired to change the world, and who tried to impose their dreams on reality. The playwright Słobodzianek explains
I took interest in this story because just like a crystal ball, it mirrors all of the utopias we’ve inhabited in the course of the 20th century: Christianity, communism and nationalism, the mixing together of different cultures, nations, languages, and religions. It seems that we’ve entered the 21st century with this burden and nothing indicates we’ll be able to rid ourselves of it—on the contrary, it seems to become more and more overwhelming.