Removed from warzone, a Ukrainian circus troupe delights in France

  • World
  • Thursday, 07 Jul 2022

Ukrainian artists of the zirka ! troupe hold an Ukrainian flag at the end of their circus show, a performance to raise awareness with circus art the consequences of the Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Saumur, France July 6, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

SAUMUR, France (Reuters) - Inside a packed circus tent in central France's Loire valley, Ukrainian acrobat Anastasiia Mazur delights the crowd with her balletic routine from a suspended ring.

Mazur, 31, fled her homeland weeks after Russia invaded, one of nearly a dozen acrobats, clowns, jugglers and contortionists who responded to a French theatre director's offer of refuge and the chance to put on a show to raise awareness of the war.

"I'm here and my family is in Germany," Mazur said in an interview in between rehearsals. "The war doesn't stop and we want more people to know about it. I hope it will end soon."

The newly formed troupe has called itself 'zirka!', meaning star in Ukrainian. Some left loved ones behind in Ukraine, others arrived with their children and belongings they could carry.

The show is an exhibition of hope and freedom, its organisers say. In some acts, the performers wear military-style camouflage fatigues and drape themselves in their national flag.

"The show is about telling what is currently happening in Ukraine in a light-hearted manner," said stage director Gerard Fasoli. "The audience can make up their own version of the story from what we give them."

Vyacheslav Iroshnikov said he had agonised over leaving his country in the face of Russian aggression. In the end he and his companion, a fellow circus performer, fled with his two children.

"Half of me (was) like 'OK, you have to stay' and half of me (said) 'OK, you have family, you have to keep it'."

(Reporting by Stephane Mahe; Editing by Richard Lough and Richard Chang)

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