Golovashchenko left his home in kyiv just before fighting broke out and watched in horror as Russian forces invaded the country.
“My wife called and said ‘Ruslan, the war has started and Russia is starting to bomb’,” Golovashchenko said.
His wife and two daughters, aged 8 and 7, remained in kyiv; her youngest daughter has special needs, complicating evacuation efforts.
“Now I think every day is getting worse and worse,” Golovashchenko said.
Most of the instructors and the two owners of the Fred Astaire dance studio in Durham are Ukrainians, who have spent the last few days in shock at the unfolding events.
“All people are just scared and hiding as much as they can. A lot of dancers take up arms and try to protect themselves as much as they can. Everyone is just trying to unite, everyone is like a big community, a big family,” said Serhiy Titarenko, an instructor who came to North Carolina four years ago.
Titarenko received his higher education in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city and a site of heavy shelling.
“When you start seeing these streets and roads four years ago and they’re all gone. It’s like ruins,” Titarenko said.
Fellow instructor Yuliya Klyuchnyk added: “I just pray that most people survive. I have an aunt in Kharkiv, where the bombing is taking place. It’s very scary.”
Titarenko and Klyuchnyk are from Poltova and still have family there. Klyuchnyk tried to convince his parents to evacuate.
“They don’t want to leave the country,” Klyuchnyk said.
WATCH: Extended Interview with Ukrainian Durham Dance Teachers
Studio owner Yuiry Simakov has been in the United States for 18 years and is responsible for bringing in many of these instructors during that time. Throughout this period, they shared a love of dance and pride in their culture; now they share despair and anguish.
“We barely sleep. We check in with our parents every hour. Every day we just ask God to save them. When they answer the phone, it’s a good thing and you’re happy they’re alive,” Simakov said.
Their love of dancing served as an important outlet, a temporary distraction from the ongoing violence.
“On Monday, I thought about how I could teach and bring joy to people. I was thinking of canceling my classes, but actually I had the first lesson, and you take the plunge, and the students support you. And it was good medicine. I was happier at the end of the day,” Simakov said.
The studio is holding a charity lesson on Tuesday night to raise funds and help Golovashchenko’s family evacuate Kyiv and help them settle in as his professional future is uncertain.
“It’s quite dangerous to move at night, it’s better to move only during the day. So we try to somehow organize that they move step by step, from kyiv, to 100 kilometers from another city to another, another, another, then gradually coming to the border,” Golovashchenko said.
The benefit lesson starts at 7:15 a.m. at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Durham at 4702 Garrett Road and costs $50. All proceeds will go to Golovashchenko’s family.
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