Local dancers with ties to Ukraine fear for families’ safety

Updated: Mar. 12, 2022 at 9:54 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Most of the instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studio on Madison’s west side are Ukrainian natives with family still overseas. As the Russian invasion continues to intensify, the dance studio hosted a teaching marathon Saturday to raise money and awareness.

Alexandra Babenko and her dance partner Denys Andreichuk are from Ukraine. Both are professional ballroom dancers in the United States to compete and teach their art form. But now, dance has become a distraction from the war happening in their home country. With family still in Ukraine, including the capitol of Kyiv, the two are anxious to hear from loved ones.

“When here it’s night, there it’s morning, so all of us who are here we are not going to sleep until we hear from our parents,” Babenko said. “I try to bring my parents here as much as I can but right no its dangerous to even go from one city to the other because they are just killing everybody.”

Andreichukis new to the United States. He says places in Ukraine where he was at just two months ago are now destroyed. The dancers say they check social media frequently for updates since getting in touch with family can be hard.

“All of us want the war to be over,” said Babenko. “We are on the phone for 24/7. I have been separated from my family for years and I don’t know when I will see them. It is very stressful.”

Studio owner Tetiana Lutsenko is also from Ukraine. She has been in the United States for 7 years but still has family in Ukraine. Since the war began, she says there has been an outpouring of support from the dance community.

“We don’t have family here, so the students become our family for us,” Lutsenko said.

The teaching marathon began Saturday morning at 5 a.m. and will last until 3 a.m. on Sunday. The instructors -- including Babenko, Andreichuk and Lutsenko -- are teaching lessons all day with the hopes of raising money and awareness for the situation in their home country.

“We do all of this not only for us but people around to know what is happening,” Lutsenko said.

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