Maksim Chmerkovskiy: It's Not Safe for Me to Leave Ukraine Right Now
"It's not like you can call an Uber if you know what I'm saying," the former Dancing With the Stars professional says.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Longtime Dancing With the Stars professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy posted two more grim videos from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday after posting two to Instagram on Thursday. In the first videos, Chmerkovskiy pleads for peace as sirens wail in the background. In the second two, he explains that he feels it's too dangerous to try and leave the country to return home to the US.
Chmerkovskiy was born in Odesa, Soviet Ukraine, in 1980. His family immigrated to Brooklyn, New York, in 1994, and he began competing as a professional dancer, joining the dance competition show in its second season in 2006 and partnering with various celebrities until leaving the show in 2018. He won the show's coveted mirror ball trophy in 2014 when paired with Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis.
In his most recent videos, Chmerkovskiy says he was in Ukraine judging a dance competition, and that some of the dancers he judged just days ago -- "men, women, boys" are now "getting guns and getting deployed to defend the country."
He said some of his Ukrainian friends were on the road moving toward the Polish border to try and leave Ukraine, but that they were reporting a dangerous journey, with "lots of senseless activity going on outside of war stuff."
For now, he will stay put and follow instructions, he said, noting that many friends were dealing with sick children and elderly parents and could not simply flee.
"It's not like you can call an Uber if you know what I'm saying," he added.
Chmerkovskiy and his wife, New Zealand-born, Australia-raised dancer Peta Murgatroyd, live in the US with their 5-year-old son, Shai. Murgatroyd posted a message on her own Instagram account on Thursday asking for prayers for her husband.
"Many of you are asking for details and I don't have the answers, but yes, he is safe right now," she wrote.
Chmerkovskiy himself responded to his wife's post with a crying emoji and a red heart emoji.
In the first video, Chmerkovskiy talks about how he found himself back in his homeland not thinking the invasion would happen while he was there.
"This does feel like the way it was when and why we left in the '90s," he wrote in the video caption. "Like my old PTSD I've finally fixed is coming back. I literally only just forgot about those 'always on the edge' feelings and actually started worrying about things like bbq grills. I'm crying as I'm typing this because all man deserves to worry about 'bbq grills' and not fucking war. Hug your loved ones."
Chmerkovskiy also shared video of what appear to be two families dragging suitcases behind them and carrying their children.
In a second video, the dancer showed an olive green truck racing down the street in front of the balcony where he's standing, saying, "There's the reality. That's military, that's center of Kyiv."
Saying he usually doesn't reveal his emotions, Chmerkovskiy said, "I want to go back home."
He added that he's luckier than his Ukrainian friends, saying, "I have a passport and a way out. A lot of people here do not."
Chmerkovskiy pleaded with ordinary Russians to stand up and be heard, saying the invasion was all "one man's ambition," and noting that he was about to head into a bomb shelter.
"There's ALWAYS another way!" Chmerkovskiy posted. "WAR is NEVER an answer!"