Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

‘We fled bombs in Ukraine – now we’re performing in the circus in Dundee’

Ukrainian couple Tetiana Kundyk and Henry Ayala from Circus Extreme.
Ukrainian couple Tetiana Kundyk and Henry Ayala from Circus Extreme.

Ukrainian circus artists performing in Dundee have recalled the moment they heard bombs in the night and were forced to flee their home.

Married couple Tetiana Kundyk, 37, and Henry Ayala, 42, were at their flat on the outskirts of Kyiv when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The pair, along with their two-year-old son Leanardo, were woken by loud explosions at 5am.

They have been telling their story to The Courier while in the city for a run of shows.

Tetiana said: “We started panicking and packing and it was very scary. The sounds, I will never forget.

‘We didn’t know when the next explosion would happen’

“We had no idea when or where the next explosion was going to happen.”

The couple stopped only to pack essential items – documents, chargers, money and nappies – before driving 12 hours to the border with Poland.

Faced with road closures and blockages, they were forced to drive the wrong way on streets and cut through fields, before eventually completing the last 12km to the border on foot.

By that point their phones were dead and credit cards had been stopped.

Tetiana and Henry are currently performing in Dundee.

Tetiana said: “We didn’t know where we were going – we just knew we were going to Poland. It was very cold.

“There were so many children and women there, you cannot imagine.

“There were also men but they were only walking towards the border and then they were just waving and saying goodbye.

‘Heartbreak’ at families being torn apart

“It was heartbreaking to see those kids crying and women because they have to separate.

“I tried not to look, because when I looked, I just burst into tears. It’s just so sad.”

Ukrainian men were banned from leaving the country to stay and fight – but Henry, who is from Venezuala, was not forced to stay.

Once across the border, the family of three were met by Polish volunteers, who took them to a hotel in Warsaw.

Long-time circus performers Henry and Tetiana, who still have friends and family trapped in Ukraine, are now appearing with Circus Extreme in Dundee as part of the production’s world tour.

Tetiana on the tight rope.
Henry doing a bike stunt.

The company has just completed a month of sold-out shows in Cardiff, with Henry assuming the role of ‘Prince of Clowns’.

Tetiana says she has “learned how to disconnect” in order to get through the shows with a smile.

But she remains worried about her mother, who is still in Ukraine caring for Tetiana’s grandmother.

For a while she would wake up at 6am every day and call her mum just to check she is alive.

Another Circus Extreme cast member from Ukraine is Liudmyla Vrinceanu, 43.

Liudmyla Vrinceanu doesn’t know when she will see her family again.

Though she was not at home when the invasion began – because she was on tour with Continental Circus Berlin – her parents are still in the country.

Based in Kharkiv in the east of the country, she says they are under constant fire.

They are unable to leave the country due to her mother’s health issues.

Liudmyla said: “My mum is very ill so she’s in bed.

‘My parents will not leave the country’

“My parents said they will not leave the city. They will not leave the country because they were born in the country. They want to die there.”

Liudmyla says her mum and dad spend most of their time in a basement bunker with no water or electricity, and limited supplies of food.

She said: “I don’t know if I am ever going to speak to them again. Every night I’m falling asleep and I’m looking at my phone to check when my parents were last online.

“Every morning I wake up it’s the first thing I do. I open my phone, check if they were online.

“But being in the show helps, and the people around – it’s a big support from all our colleagues.

Circus Extreme performer Tony Garcia with a flamethrower.
Tetiana showing off her acrobatics.

“Also, as I see outside on the street, people from Scotland, England, Ireland, they’re helping Ukrainian people so much.”

Circus Extreme held its first show in Dundee on Wednesday, and will be performing in the city until Sunday July 3.

The cast of 30 – which includes seven Ukrainian performers in total – will then visit Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Other performers come from the likes of Brazil and Ireland.

Dundee University graduations: Best pictures from second day of celebrations

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

Conversation

[[title_reg]]

Please enter the name you would like to appear on your comments. (It doesn’t have to be your real name - but nothing rude please, we are a polite bunch!) Use a combination of eight or more characters that includes an upper and lower case character, and a number.

By registering with [[site_name]] you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy

Or sign up with

Facebook Google

[[content_reg_complete]]

[[title_login]]

Or login with

Forgotten your password?

[[title]]