Ukrainian citizens continue to grapple with the fatal reality of existing in a war zone. For the rest of us, observers taking in the nonstop heavy fighting through news broadcasts and updates on our phones, Russia’s invasion of the sovereign country can feel surreal, far-off. For fans of “Dancing With the Stars,” professional Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s unsettling Instagram update makes the invasion hit all the more closely to home.
The "Dancing with the Stars” professional dancer took to his Instagram on Sunday to tell fans he has returned to Europe to help refugees impacted by the invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Chmerkovskiy detailed how the war had affected him personally by documenting his escape from Kyiv to Los Angeles. At the time of Russia’s invasion, Chmerkovskiy had been filming “World of Dance UA” a planned offshoot of the American reality competition series “World of Dance.”
Now, Chmerkovskiy has returned to Poland in order to help refugees.
“I’m just trying to be as informative as possible about what I’m doing personally,” he explained at the start of the 14-minute-long video. “I’m fine. I’m good. I spent some time at home. I enjoyed some of that Los Angeles weather, saw my family, saw my friends, obviously spent some time, and we’ve been working on tangible opportunities to help.”
Chmerkovskiy (who immigrated to the United States in 1994 when he was 14) explained that he and his family started Baranova 27, a charity organization working to provide funds and aid to Ukrainians. Speaking to viewers during his Instagram live, Chmerkovskiy explained the inspiration for the name Baranova27 comes from the Odessa, Ukraine address where he, his father Aleksandr, and brother Val Chmerkovskiy were each born.
“We’ve been working diligently on making Baranova27 something that, as big as it took off, that it can continue that way,” Chmerkovskiy said.
The Latin ballroom dancer shared that he is also collaborating with television personality Bethenny Frankel and her charity effort, BStrong.
Currently, the worldwide initiative has a welcome center at the Poland/ Ukraine border. Beyond providing housing facilities to refugees unable to find temporary housing, BStrong has raised $6 million in funds for assistance, and it continues to do more.
“I’m going to visit them, see if I can be of any service, and give you guys my perspective of everything that’s happening,” he explained, adding that he hopes to learn more about her efforts for refugees. “This is incredible infrastructure, and we are learning. We’re learning with Baranova (27).”
Towards the end of the Instagram live, the dancer asked for his followers to continue to pay attention to what is going on in Ukraine.
“People are getting tired,” he noted. “This is the time that I would like to ask everybody to realize that it didn’t not end or slow down — it got worse in Ukraine. I want everybody to understand what that means because everything that happened, happened fast, and it was traumatic, and it was worldwide and everything. But right now, it is getting worse. (The) humanitarian crisis is getting worse. People are getting hurt worse, there are more people hurt, and there are more people affected.”