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Kristina Kadashevych is a professional dancer from Ukraine. At the start of 2022, the ballerina never would have thought she would end the year in the American city of Richmond, Virginia.
She is there to perform as the sugarplum fairy and two other characters in Richmond Ballet’s yearly performances of The Nutcracker.
Last February, she was supposed to fly to Paris to join the traveling Kyiv City Ballet as a guest dancer. But, the day before she was to leave, Russian troops invaded Ukraine. As a result, Kadashevych, her 2-year-old son and her parents had to flee their home in Kharkiv, in the eastern part of Ukraine. They traveled by train to the western part of the country where they thought it would be safe.
“It was dangerous,” she said, “and we were scared.”
They took shelter at the home of another ballet dancer. Kadashevych later made the difficult decision to leave her family and join the ballet company in Paris.
“I needed to work because I have no practice,” she said. “I was just sitting and losing my profession.”
Artistic director Stoner Winslett said Richmond Ballet dancers tried hard to keep dancing through the pandemic.
“Dancers are like Olympic athletes; if you lie around your apartment and don’t train, you lose your skill,” she said.
Kadashevych has been dancing since she was nine and professionally for the past 15 years. She never considered another career, saying that dancing brought her interesting experiences, travel and joy.
She left her family, thinking she would return soon. But, the continuing war prevented that from happening.
Kadashevych and the Kyiv City Ballet went on tour in France, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and later the United States. They were warmly welcomed everywhere they went.
“In Europe, our performances were like a charity to help Ukraine,” she said. “We felt we were doing important things and helping our country the way we can.
In between the performances, she went home to Ukraine for a month over the summer to visit her three-year-old son, Lev.
She ended up in Richmond through another Ukrainian who works with the company, Igor Antonov. He is an artistic associate with Richmond Ballet and director of Richmond Ballet II.
He texted Kadashevych and asked if she would like to join the Richmond Ballet temporarily.
“It was unexpected and very interesting for me,” said Kadashevych. She came to Richmond while the rest of the Kyiv company returned to Europe.
Kadashevych is substituting for a Richmond Ballet dancer who is on leave. Winslett said bringing Kadashevych to the company would further the ballet’s main goal “to awaken, uplift and unite human spirits through the power of dance.”
Kadashevych will remain with the company for the next two months, and perform in the ballet Firebird with Serenade in February.
She does not know what lies ahead for her after that. She hopes to return to Ukraine soon, perhaps after Christmas, for a short visit. She is not sure about anything else, including whether the war will end soon.
“We all hope that it will,” she said, “but I’m not sure.”
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English from The Associated Press news report.