Olga Smirnova and Victor Caixeta in Raymonda, music by Alexander Glazunov, choreography by Rachel Beaujean, after Marius Petipa. Stand With Ukraine, Ballet For Peace fundraising gala, Teatro di San Carlo, Napoli, Italy, 4.4.2022.
When the war started and Russia attacked into Ukraine, February 24th 2022, prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow, Olga Smirnova had to pick her position. She was against the war.
My life totally changed in one day,” says Olga Smirnova. “In the morning, I did not know I was going to leave Russia. And in the night, I was sitting on the plane.” The 30-year-old dancer was one of the Bolshoi Ballet’s star ballerinas, a universally lauded performer at the peak of her powers, at a company that has long had close ties to the Kremlin. Earlier this month, she made a shock announcement: she had joined Dutch National Ballet, leaving Moscow behind. The move came shortly after Smirnova wrote a heartfelt post on the online messaging service Telegram about Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“With all the fibres of my soul I am against the war,” she wrote. “I never thought that I would be ashamed of Russia … But now the line is drawn on the before and after.”
Victor Caixeta danced with the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia. He had to leave. like almost all dancers from abroad. Here is his post from Instagram:
I’ve been holding myself for a while now, to come here and open up to all of you, not that I have the need to explain myself and my decisions to anyone – I’m responsible for my own actions since the day I left home at the age of 15. But considering that social media nowadays can be a very toxic and overwhelming place, and that people can cancel you for so many stupid things, I waited till the moment I feel safe to make a statement about the crazy times we are living in.
I’ve been raised in an environment with so much love, and the word WAR goes against all the things I’ve been taught, all the things I believe. With such a big heart like mine, I feel the pain of all Ukrainian people, all of my Ukrainian friends and their families, it hurts me as if my own people is being under attacked, my own family.
It’s was not easy to put 5 years of my life in one luggage of 23 kg, take my dog and just leave Russia, leave my teachers, my friends and the place I called home and that changed my life and gave me a career.
As rumors go by, I wanted to make it clear that I haven’t resigned or left Mariinsky behind, even though I find very difficult for me to continue my career there, I decided to just take a step back – a break.
For now I only hope that all these dark times end, and that no more people suffer with these conflicts and that I stand with people against any kind of war!
Here are the photos from Napoli, Olga Smirnova and Victor Caixeta in Raymonda, music by Alexander Glazunov, choreography by Rachel Beaujean, after Marius Petipa. Stand With Ukraine, Ballet For Peace fundraising gala, Teatro di San Carlo 4.4.2022.
Olga’s full text in English:
I cannot but say that with every fiber of my soul I am against war. And the point is not even that probably every second Russian has relatives or friends living in Ukraine, not that my grandfather is Ukrainian, and I am a quarter Ukrainian, but that we continue to live in the 20th century, although nominally in XXI. Political issues in a modern civilized society should be resolved exclusively through peaceful negotiations. I never thought that I would be ashamed of Russia, I have always been proud of the talented Russian people, our cultural and sporting achievements. But now the line is drawn on the before and after. And it hurts that people are dying, while others are deprived of a roof over their heads or forced to leave their homes. And who would have thought a week ago that all this would happen to us, because even if we are not at the epicenter of hostilities, we cannot remain indifferent to a global catastrophe.
Olga’s original text in Russian:
Я не могу не сказать, что всеми фибрами души я против войны. И дело даже не в том, что наверно у каждого второго россиянина в Украине живут родные или друзья, не в том, что мой дедушка украинец, а я на четверть украинка, а в том, что мы продолжаем жить в XX веке, хотя номинально перешли в XXI. Политические вопросы в современном цивилизованном обществе должны решаться исключительно путем мирных переговоров. Я никогда не думала, что мне будет стыдно за Россию, я всегда гордилась талантливыми русскими людьми, нашими культурными, спортивными достижениями. Но теперь проведена черта на до и после. И больно от того, что гибнут люди, а другие лишаются крыши над головой или вынуждены бросать свои дома. И кто бы мог подумать неделю назад, что это все произойдет с нами, потому что даже если мы не в эпицентре боевых действий, но мы не можем остаться безучастными к глобальной катастрофе.
Photos by Jack Devant © with kind permission of Teatro di San Carlo, special thanks to Giulia Romito