Strus was born in Chicago, Illinois, to a Ukrainian family. She spoke Ukrainian as her first language and attended Ukrainian school, at weekends, regularly. She had first decisive successes at performing arts, while a high school student, and attended Illinois State University. As a theater major, she joined Greg Allen's Neo-Futurist ensemble, in 1993, which she wrote solo and ensemble performances for. She has played for the Chicago Steppenwolf, Goodman, and Victory Gardens theaters as well as for the Curious Theatre Company, the Northlight Repertory, and others, and has also worked for Yoplait, WBEZ, and the Chicago Jazz Festival.