Ukrainian-American Dancing With the Stars pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy has been slammed for going on a media blitz to talk about his ‘survivor’s remorse’ after fleeing Kyiv on a train packed with women and children when others are staying behind to fight.
Chmerkovskiy, 42, was in Ukraine for work when war broke out on February 24. He fled on a train filled with women and children from Kyiv, returning to the US last week.
The pro dancer has both Ukrainian and American citizenship. He is now fundraising online for Ukrainian relief efforts, and says he wants to return to the region to help in Poland after feeling ‘survivor’s remorse’ for the last few days.
On Sunday night, he appeared on CNN with Anderson Cooper where he claimed he’d been given ‘no choice’ but to leave by ‘multiple sources including military personnel’.
On Monday morning, another interview aired on ABC’s Good Morning America. It was filmed on March 4, and re-aired on Monday.
Maksim Chmerkovskiy with his wife Peta Murgatroyd on Thursday in Malibu after he arrived back in America from Ukraine
Chmerkovskiy is shown on a train from Kyiv to Poland. He said he sat in between carriages so that he didn’t take up anyone else’s ‘space’ , but that he couldn’t stay there for the entire time because it was too cold
Sunday: The DWTS pro on CNN with Anderson Cooper. He said he felt ‘bad’ about leaving especially when he realized his train was packed with women and children
Monday morning: In a clip aired on GMA on Monday, he is shown showing off the Welcome Home Papa sign that his son made him
It included footage from inside his home in Malibu, which he shares with his dancer wife Peta Murgatroyd.
Critics have however slammed the 6ft 2inch dancer for fleeing the war zone and not staying to fight.
Others who say they understand the decision and would have done the same have begged him to stop posting about the conflict on social media and ‘lay low’.
The couple are raising money in multiple ways. On Monday, Peta posted a ‘shop for Ukraine’ fundraiser on Instagram.
In his interview on CNN, he said he felt ‘really bad’ about taking up space on the train so he sat in between two carriages for a while.
He claimed that Ukrainians were ‘ready’ for the conflict and had been preparing for it for months. When Putin invaded, Maksim claims he was ‘told’ that he ‘had to go’.
‘I just got told that I had to go. I have to say about Ukrainian people in general, they were ready for this conflict. That was the whole general feeling.
‘All the time I was being told if something happens, “we’ll take you out, you’ll be the first.”
‘When everything happened, it happened suddenly. The day it happened, somebody was bombarding my phone saying “you have to go now.”
The train station in Kyiv on Monday morning. 1.7million people have now fled Ukraine
‘I started to get various calls multiple sources, military personnel saying “you have to go, things are about to get crazy.”‘
He did specify who helped him leave, or advised him to get out. Other Americans have reported not receiving any form of help from the State Department and having to find their own paths out of the conflict.
Maksim said he felt ‘really bad going’ and it became ‘even worse’ when he got to the train station in Kyiv and realized he was one of if not the only man on the train.
‘I realized it’s all women and children and I’m too big and I’m taking up space. I put myself in between trains. Internally, I justified my space because I was outside,’ he said, referring to his decision to sit in between the train cars for some of the trip.
He ended up going back inside because it was ‘too freezing’.
‘I helped a lot with bags and stuff, just to understand that I am not taking up space.’
He now says he is going to return to the region to help on the Polish border. He has given no indication that he will enter Ukraine to fight.
‘I spent the last couple days with survivors’ remorse. I’m working on an opportunity to go back to Poland. I want to justify my safe out that way,’ he said.
On Monday morning, another interview aired on ABC. That included shots from inside the couple’s Malibu home, where Maksim showed off the ‘welcome home papa’ sign that his young son made him.
‘I am still very much in a fight or flight, I’m a big boy. I know for a fact that I’m going through something mentally.
Maksim’s wife posted these photographs on Instagram over the weekend and said it was ‘time to heal’
‘I know I get into these crying moments, I’m emotional. I can’t control it, I cried all the way from the airport,’ he said.
His wife Peta had been asking for prayers on social media before he returned to their home.
On Saturday, with him home safe, she posted that it was ‘time to heal.’
‘I never thought our family would be directly affected by this in our lifetime, I never thought what we are seeing on our TV’s was a reality in 2022. I have never hugged him so tight. Shaking and forever grateful. Now it’s time to heal.
‘We cannot go back to our normal. Our lives are forever changed. We have a new normal, and that’s ok,’ she said.
She added that the pair would continue to raise money and awareness for Ukraine.
‘But many have slammed them for continuing to talk about his survival and his decision to leave, while others stayed behind to fight and some – with no ties to Ukraine – have traveled there to take up arms.
The dancer’s wife gushed on social media about being given cookies by strangers while she went through ‘hell’ waiting for him to come home
Chmerkovskiy’s wife Peta on Monday asking people to donate to their Ukrainian fundraiser
‘My man, you were there and fled. I don’t fault you for that. But you took a spot on a train of women and children and took a press lap highlighting it. Your outrage now seems… misplaced,’ one Twitter user said.
‘I like Maks and understand that he has a wife and small child but yeah, he was also between ages 18-60 and could have stayed and helped his country. He didn’t. Would have been better for his brand to just leave and hope people didn’t notice,’ remarked another.
‘Let me see if I have this right. We’re supposed to care that a healthy, strong, young man whose only claim to fame is Dancing With the Stars, made it onto a train and into Poland safely. In lieu of women & children in that spot. Hmm ok,’ said another.
Last week, he documented his escape from Kyiv on social media.