Circus with entertainers who fled war-torn Ukraine is in Burton

Entertainers who were forced to flee for their lives in Ukraine after hiding from invading Russian forces are in Burton ready to put on a show as the circus comes to town. Circus Cortex is a more modern take on the traditional circus and is currently at Shobnall Leisure Complex and will be there until Monday.

The circus has 16 performers, out of 24, who are from the war-torn country and successfully made it to the UK under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme. Each and every one of them has spent the last three months hiding from Russian forces, having to shelter as bombs were exploding nearby, going days without proper food or sleep and walking through the night in the hope that they could reach safety.

Tanya Flightsuk is one of the dancers in the show and has shared her terrifying story of how she spent 10 days fearing she would die in Kharkiv before making a long and daunting journey to Hungary. As she fled her home country she said bombs were dropping all around. The 22-year-old lives in the capital of Kyiv, where her family still are, but was looking after her friend’s dance studio in Kharkiv, a city in the northeast, when war broke out.

TOP STORY: Four breeds of dog currently banned in the UK

She had been traveling with the circus and her plan was to cover her friend’s dance classes and take a bit of time to herself, and then go back to see her family. However, after only two or three weeks of being there she woke up early to what sounded like fireworks to quickly realized to her horror it was explosives going off as the Russians invaded.

Tanya said: “It was a new city for me and I didn’t know anyone there. That is what I needed as I wanted a rest after traveling and I had that for a few weeks. I woke up very early and heard fireworks and I thought it wasn’t fireworks, it was explosives from bombs.

Tanya Lotuk

“I had hundreds of missed calls from my mum and brother and I thought something very scary was happening and I was alone. From 6am to 8am I was just sitting and doing nothing, I couldn’t pull my thoughts together.

“I phoned my choreographer and asked if we should cancel lessons. No-one tells you how to act in these situations. I knew it was no joke and I needed some food and cash but just four hours after the invasion started, the shelves were half empty and there was very bad traffic on the roads.

“I saw the military coming and it was scary. I thought if they invaded Kharkiv they would make me go to Russia. I was thinking they would kill me. I didn’t sleep for the first three days; it was very scary. I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up the next morning.

“I was hiding in the basement and was going up and downstairs 20 times a day with the dog I was caring for. I felt I was not ready for that situation, maybe if I was with my family I would feel more safe.”

She spent 10 days hiding in the basement while bombs were dropping around her, worried that she would also not have any food and scared to go out for fresh water. One day she woke up at 3am and there was a huge explosion that left the building shaking, Tanya knew she had to make a run for it at this point.

She bolted for the railway station, which was 30 minutes away, running around shelling and bombings to get there. When she got to the station she had to lie on the ground in the snow and rain, seeing families desperate with screaming children and tears in their eyes.

She was there for nine hours before spending 15 hours standing up on a packed train – she was not able to eat for the whole journey. Then she had another 10-hour wait before an 11-hour train journey to the Hungarian border.

By this point she was cold and sick. She made her way through passport control and took her last train into Hungary.

The performer said: “I don’t think I realized what was happening. When I got to Hungary I heard no sirens or explosives. I just sat on the floor and cried. I had been so strong and did what I had to do to” save my life so I didn’t allow my emotions to be released.

“I realized that I’ve seen real war and not just the history books or the story of my grandparents. I feel like I betrayed my family as I did not say goodbye and that’s a horrible feeling.”

Tanya had joined Circus Cortex for the first tour last year and feels like they are also her family and it is a big adventure. She added: “It’s not work; it’s a lifestyle.”

The circus was due to tour starting April, but everything had to be put on hold when owner and director Irina Archer awoke in late February to the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. The cast had contacted Irina as soon as troops set foot in their country telling her of the frightening sounds of the missiles exploding and how scared they all were. Many have had to leave family and friends in Ukraine.

Irina says her cast and crew are worried sick about their relatives still in Ukraine, with many hoping they can return home when the circus tour finishes in October but it remains uncertain. The show itself is a modern twist on the circus and is designed to entertain visitors of all ages – with performers including BMX riders, breakdancing and parkour.

Irina said: “The performances are very modern with disciplines such as BMX, breakdancing and parkour. All of our performers are under 35 so the vibe of the show is very young and modern. All people have enjoyed it.

“The dancers are all really cool and the kids can relate to them. It’s a bit like watching Britain’s Got Talent. There’s never a dull moment and it really is action packed. Kids have been captivated by it the whole time.”

Circus Cortex, which is touring the UK, is at Shobnall Leisure Complex, off Shobnall Road, until Monday, June 27, with tickets available from the box office on the site. Irina is urging people to come along and enjoy the show, while supporting her brave performers.

NEWSLETTER: Sign up for email alerts to StaffordshireLive straight to your inbox here

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *