Ukrainian-born professional ballroom dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy arrived back in Eastern Europe this week to help Ukrainian refugees, mere weeks after safely escaping Ukraine and reuniting with his family in the US.
Now in Poland, the “Dancing With the Stars” professional met on Tuesday with 12 Ukrainian refugees staying in the home of Jakub Rybicki — a dancer who has helped over 200 refugees transit from the Polish border with Ukraine and find shelter. With Rybicki expecting to assist another 1,000 refugees in the coming weeks, Chmerkovskiy urged the public to help support his efforts, which have been financed with the Polish dancer’s own funds.
Chmerkovskiy announced his arrival in Poland in an Instagram video on Sunday night, saying he has been “working on tangible opportunities to help.” He also spoke about Baranova 27 — the charitable organization he created with his brother and father — and a GoFundMe page that the group started.
The volunteer-based organization, named after the address where Chmerkovskiy, his brother and father were born in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, has so far shipped thousands of pounds of aid for victims of the war.
“That’s where sort of our roots are at,” he said. “And we’ve been working diligently on making Baranova 27 something that, as big as it took off, that it can continue that way.”
Chmerkovskiy added that while in Poland he will work on the ground to organize and distribute aid, and will also visit and offer assistance to the humanitarian aid operation BStrong, which was founded by entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel.
The dancer, who was filming a dance competition show in Kyiv when Russia invaded Ukraine, ended his Instagram video by encouraging viewers to not forget about the ongoing crisis, which he said “is getting worse, people are getting hurt worse.”
“I would really, really like for you guys to give yourself a day off,” Chmerkovskiy said. “Tune out, go to church, spend time with your family. Do your thing. But please, come back to us and come back to realization that a lot of people still need our help, and we should continue providing this support, because we now showed Ukraine as a world, that we can all do it together.”