Kyiv Classic Ballet couple hopes for peace through dancing in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kyiv Classic Ballet member Yevhenii Petrenko and principal Mie Nagasawa, his wife, are seen Monday in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

A couple from the Kyiv Classic Ballet who fled the Ukrainian capital with their son have settled in Saitama Prefecture, with the father recently joining the local ballet company.

Kyiv Classic Ballet principal Mie Nagasawa and Yevhenii Petrenko, her husband, and their 1-year-old son Brian are residing at her parents’ home in the prefecture.

It was in early February when their life in Kyiv completely changed. While Nagasawa was on tour with the ballet company, she received communications from the Japanese Embassy in Ukraine encouraging her to flee the country.

“At that time, I never thought that war would happen and I also felt like remaining on tour,” said Nagasawa, 36. “But as our son is still small, we decided that the three of us would go to Japan, for the time being, for his safety. We had intended to return to Ukraine after a little while.”

Since Russia’s invasion began, Petrenko has received on his smartphone photos and videos sent by his friends and relatives in Ukraine. There were images of a soot-covered child being rescued, a shelled building, a burnt road.

“I was shocked to find that our towns appeared to have fallen into ruins,” Petrenko said, his voice quavering. “I have no idea what has become of our apartment.”

While in Saitama Prefecture, the 28-year-old Petrenko auditioned for the NBA Ballet Company based in Tokorozawa and was hired on Monday.

The company’s 49-year-old artistic director Koichi Kubo said: “I heard the situation was far beyond what I could have imagined. I thought we should somehow create an environment where he can dance without feeling the threat of the war.”

Petrenko, who took part in military service in his early 20s, has mixed feelings.

“I also have a desire to go back to my home country right away, but what I can do now is to perform ballet,” he said. “I will dance with love to the world, with gratitude to the help extended to us by all kinds of people.”

He will make his debut with the NBA Ballet Company on May 28 in “The Little Mermaid.”

“I would like to show the world the preciousness of peace through my dancing,” Petrenko said.