Maria Bondarenko, 18, center, left her home in Nikolaev, Ukraine, and now attends the Dutch National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam.
"Saving Ukrainian grace." A former Bolshoi dancer is helping young dancers flee Ukraine, one ballet school at a time.
Photography by Maximilian Mann for the Los Angeles Times.
More than 80 young Ukrainian dancers have found safe haven at prestigious ballet schools, including the Dutch National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam.
To date, Russia’s war in Ukraine has resulted in an estimated 3 million refugees fleeing the country, about half of whom are children.
Martin Korol, 17, now studies at the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco.
Dimitry Sitnitsky, 17, now studies at the Dutch National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam.
Sofia Chycha, 15, now studies at the Dutch National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam.
Maria Bondarenko, 18, now studies at the Dutch National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam.
A host mother is happy to lend bicycles to students Sofia Chycha and Maria Bondarenko.
Maria Bondarenko, left, and Sofia Chycha sit together in the evening on the edge of a canal after ballet class in Amsterdam.
Sofia Chycha, left, and Maria Bondarenko, at home after class, talk with their parents in Ukraine all day.
Martin Korol, left, and Alisa Garkavenko, first met in Monaco and are currently the only students from Ukraine at the Princess Grace Academy.
“The academy gives me a room, and I can eat with the boys, and I go to the class. Everyone is so kind to me,” says Martin Korol, fourth from left, during a WhatsApp call.
When Martin Korol arrived at the border to Monaco, he showed border patrol a video of himself dancing and a letter of acceptance to Princess Grace Academy.
The teens have been dancing since they were small. Sitnitsky started when he was 4, Bondarenko at 6 and Chycha when she was 9. It is all they have ever wanted to do.