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February 24, 2022 3:35 pm
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‘I’ll Never Be the Same’: Jewish Ukrainian-American Dancer Maksim Chermkovskiy Shares Emotional Posts From Kyiv

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Professional ballroom dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Photo: Reporter.

A Jewish Ukrainian-American professional dancer who has been filming a television show in Kyiv, Ukraine, got emotional on Instagram while giving a firsthand account about Russian troops invading his birth country.

“I will never be the same. This is stressful and I’m getting old feelings back. … This does feel like the way it was when and why we left in the 90s,” wrote Maksim Chmerkovskiy, an alum of the TV series “Dancing With the Stars” and a judge on the show’s Ukrainian spinoff, in an Instagram post on Thursday, the same day that Russian troops invaded Ukraine by land, sea, and air.

Chmerkovskiy grew up in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the USSR, his father started a successful retail business but it was burned down in what the family believed was a mafia arson attack, People magazine previously reported. Chmerkovskiy immigrated to the US with his family in 1994, when he was 14.

The Latin ballroom champion wrote on Instagram that being back in Ukraine, where he’s been for six months to film “Dancing With the Stars Ukraine,” feels “like my old PTSD [that] I’ve finally fixed is coming back.”

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“I literally only just forgot about those ‘always on the edge’ feelings and actually started worrying about things like bbq grills,” he wrote. “I’m crying as I’m typing this because all man deserves to worry about ‘bbq grills’ and not f***ing war.” 

In a video posted to Instagram later on Thursday, Chmerkovskiy showed military vehicles driving through Kyiv as sirens wailed in the background, and admitted to “getting emotional” and finding it “a bit difficult” to be in the city during the Russian attack. He described falling “back in love” with Ukraine during his stay there, saying the country is “completely not what is being portrayed to the Russian people in order to justify this invasion.”

The Los Angeles-based dancer also expressed heartbreak over the families who are trapped inside the country and unable to leave.

“I want to go back home and I realize that I have the way to. I have a different passport and my family is far away,” he explained. “And what I’m realizing is that my friends, whose kids are here, whose moms and dads are here and elderly people are here—they can’t just escape. … I’m uneasy. I’m very scared. I don’t know what words to use. But I do know that at the very least that I have a way out. A lot of people do not. And it’s f**king nonsense.”

“I am not at this point someone who is pleading, you know, for someone else’s safety from a far distance. I’m somebody who is about to go into a bomb shelter because s**t is going down and I think that in 2022 civilized world, this is not the way we do things,” Chmerkovskiy said. “And I think that as a powerful, forward thinking nation, not a third world kind of country, I think the Russians need to get up and say something because no one’s opinions is being heard.”

On Thursday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he ordered “a special military operation” with the aim of protecting people, including Russian citizens, who are subjected to “genocide” in Ukraine — a claim that the West has called propaganda, Reuters reported. “We will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine,” Putin added. “All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine.”

Chmerkovskiy’s Instagram posts followed hours later. He continued to update fans on his Instagram Stories as the evening began in Kyiev and while waiting to enter a bomb shelter at his hotel.

“Ukrainians are not going to give up,” he said. “They are going to put up a huge fight. It’s going to be a bloodshed. People here do not want this [Russian] regime. It feels like it’s just all going to be unnecessary. And that makes me feel really, really sad about this whole situation.”

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