Maksim Chmerkovskiy Plans Return to Eastern Europe to Join Ground Efforts as War Rages in Ukraine
Jewish Ukrainian-born professional ballroom dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy is planning on returning to Eastern Europe to help Ukrainians in need, less than a month after safely escaping his native country that is now in its third week under Russian assault.
“I spent the last couple of days with survivor’s remorse, and I’m currently working on an opportunity to go back,” the former “Dancing With the Stars” professional, 42, said in a recent on-air interview with CNN‘s Anderson Cooper. “Probably sometime next week I’m going to go back to Poland and join efforts on the ground. Sort of want to justify my safe out that way.”
Chmerkovskiy, who is married to fellow professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd, did not specify when he plans to return to the region.
He told Cooper he had been in Ukraine “consulting on a couple of TV shows and dance-related projects,” including serving as a judge on a Ukrainian television series competition, when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched a large-scale invasion of the country on Feb. 24. The Ukrainian-American dancer chronicled on Instagram his experience being in the country before and during the invasion and his observations while finding refuge in Kyiv, and even posted videos while waiting in a bomb shelter with others.
While men between the ages of 18-60 were prohibited from leaving Ukraine under martial law, Chmerkovskiy was allowed to leave the county because he is an American citizen.
Opening up to Cooper about escaping the country, he said, “It wasn’t really a decision to leave, it was more like I got told that I have to go. Ukrainian people, in general, they were waiting for this conflict. They were prepared. It was eight years in the making and that was the whole general feeling since I started [working] in Ukraine in September of last year.”
“The entire time, the feeling was that something is looming,” he added. “All the time I was being told, ‘If something happens, we’ll take you out. You’ll be the first to move out of the country.’ And when everything happened, it happened suddenly. And that morning, I was literally driving to film and at 5 a.m., someone was bombarding my phone saying, ‘You have to go now.’ ”
Chmerkovskiy then said he “stuck for the next five days” in Ukraine and on his last day in the country, he received phone calls from military personnel he had befriended and they all told him, “‘You have to go, things are about to get crazy. You are an American citizen, you have to leave the country.'”
He said on CNN that when he eventually boarded a train to Poland, “I felt really bad going, and the feeling sunk in even worse because when I got to the train station, I realized it was all women and children. I was too big and I’m taking up space, so I had put myself between trains.”
Chmerkovskiy arrived in Los Angeles, where he lives with his family, on March 2.
He also told Good Morning America in a previous interview about feeling “guilty” for escaping Ukraine while others could not. “I feel bad,” he admitted. “I feel ashamed. I feel upset … I cried from the airport. I felt embarrassed … the entire ride back cause I was the only man on the train amongst all women and children.”