Ballet dancer

Ukrainian ballet dancer, 13, pursues her dreams in Italy

The story of Vasilisa who fled Ukraine with her dancing shoes.

Vasilisa, a 13-year-old Ukrainian, has always dreamed of being a ballerina.

She attended a top dance academy in Kyiv until it abruptly closed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than two weeks ago.

Amid the horrors and tragedy of war, Vasilisa’s dreams seemed shattered, reports the Italian state broadcaster RAI News.

Then, at the suggestion of a Japanese dancer, Vasilisa’s mother took a chance and emailed a prestigious dance school in Spinea, in Italy’s northern Veneto region.

“My name is Giulia. My daughter Vasilisa is studying at Serge Lifar’s kyiv Academy of Dance in the classical music department” – she writes – “Today we are forced to leave our Ukraine. Can we continue our studies in your Academy?”

When the school principals, dancers Letizia Giuliani and her husband Francesco Marzola, read the unexpected message last Monday, they immediately replied in the affirmative.

“We had set up a collection in our dance school for goods to be sent by bus to Ukraine, we wanted to be useful, help in any way possible” – Marzola told RAI News – “The email is arrived just as we were filling the package.”

In kyiv, a delighted Vasilisa packed her ballet shoes and her mother bought tickets for the grueling bus journey to Italy.

But the joy was bittersweet because it meant separating their family: Giulia’s other daughter is a doctor, specializing in pediatric oncohematology. Her skills are too important for her to leave the children in Ukraine at this time.

Giulia’s husband also remains in Ukraine, defending his country with all men between the ages of 18 and 60.

Last Thursday, Vasilisa and her mother made the 1,400 km bus journey, with their little dog Lily, to arrive in the Treviso area 36 hours later.

“When I saw them get off the bus, it was wonderful” – Marzola told RAI – “The little girl came down smiling with the dog in her hand, her mother exhausted by the situation.”

As he drove them to their new home, he received a phone call asking how things were going. “At that moment, instead of the right words to answer the question” – he said – “tears and a loud cry of emotion came out.”

A local woman welcomes Vasilisa and Giulia as guests, opening the doors to her home in Mirano, about a kilometer from the dance school, RAI reports.

One of the school’s students, a 12-year-old girl of Ukrainian descent, helps Vasilisa with the Italian language, while Marzola said her own children can easily communicate with her using Google Translate.

“Once at home, the girls talked about dancing, they discussed the curriculum” – he says – “Vasilisa seemed for a while to have forgotten the horrors of war. Her mother, meanwhile, was happy to see this.

So, a week after Giulia sent the life-changing email from war-torn Ukraine, Vasilisa started her first dance class in Italy.

“The girls welcomed her with affection” – said Marzola – “They had no problem communicating with each other, it was so natural: they spoke the universal language of dance.”

Photo RAI News – Instagram Serenella Bettin