A British ballet dancer who became the first UK principal at the prestigious Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg has revealed he’s fled Russia following Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine.
Xander Parish, 36, who’s originally from North Ferriby in East Yorkshire, quit his role in a production of Giselle at the historic dance company, and left for Estonia last week, with his new Russian wife in tow.
The performer, who joined the company in 2010 after previously being offered a place at the Royal Ballet when he was 18, said he could not continue to appear on stage ‘until peace comes’, telling social media: ‘We need to observe from afar rather than being in the middle of it.’
Parish and his wife Anastasia Demidova, who was born in the Siberian city of Tomsk, said the couple had made the decision to leave the country ‘due to the awful crisis’.
British ballet star Xander Parish, 36, has been a Principal dancer at the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg since 2010, but made the decision to leave Russia last week following Putin’s attacks on the Ukraine (Xander Parish as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House in July 2017)
The dancer, who was born near Hull in East Yorkshire, told followers on Instagram that he has made the decision to leave Russia – and is now in Estonia with his Russian wife, fellow Mariinsky dancer Anastasia Demidova (The couple pictured during a Zoom ballet session during lockdown)
He wrote last week: ‘Tonight I was supposed to be performing Giselle at the Mariinsky Theatre but instead, due to the awful crisis I have taken the difficult decision to leave Russia, at least until peace comes. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine, near and far.’
He added: ‘I am grateful to the wonderful ordinary Russian people, the majority of whom have treated me with such kindness. I pray that peace will come and the wounds will be healed by God’s grace.’
The historic St Petersburg ballet company currently employs 14 dancers from overseas. After being a child star of ballet, Parish took a place as a principal dancer in 2010. His sister Demelza currently dances at The Royal Ballet in London.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said his parents in the UK had influenced the couple’s decision not to stay in Russia while Putin is unleashing war on neighbouring Ukraine.
He told the newspaper: ‘My mum and dad really decided for me. They have been happy to see me thriving in St Petersburg.
‘But when this happened my mum was very keen I should take some time out and just leave for the time being. I’m not saying I’m never going back.’
On Instagram, Parish thanked ‘ordinary’ Russian people for their kindness but said they ‘need to observe from afar rather than being in the middle of’ the ‘awful crisis’ (Pictured in Romeo and Juliet performed by the Mariinsky Ballet at the Royal Opera House in 2014)
The couple are now applying for a visa for Demidova, who Parish wed six months ago, so they can reside in the UK until the conflict ends.
Several dancers at the Mariinsky Ballet have spoken out about the conflict in recent days. Yekaterina Chebykina, a soloist, posted on social media: ‘It was impossible to imagine what is happening now… I am Ukrainian.
‘My hometown is Kyiv. Over these seven days, I have come across various statements addressed to me, and my country.
‘You can tell me anything, but I know better than anyone what is happening in my hometown, because my relatives are there, relatives, friends with whom I am in touch 24/7.
‘I will not call anyone to any action. Everyone must live according to their conscience. I can only say one thing, nothing can justify war!!!’
The star said speaking to his parents back in the UK had made his mind up to leave Russia, saying: ‘My mum was very keen I should take some time out and just leave for the time being. I’m not saying I’m never going back.’
Vladimir Shklyarov, 37, a principal dancer with the Mariinsky Ballet and a guest principal with The Royal Ballet, posted: ‘I am against the war in Ukraine! I am for the people, for the peaceful sky above your heads.
‘Politicians should be able to negotiate without shooting and killing civilians, for this they were given a language and a head.
‘My grandfather, Anatoly Filimonovich, graduated from school in Ukraine with a gold medal, my great-grandmother Sonya lived all her life in Kyiv. It is impossible to look at everything that is happening today without tears…’
He said plaintively: ‘I want to dance… I want to love everyone – that’s the purpose of my life … I don’t want wars or borders.’
‘I cannot but say that with every fibre of my soul I am against the war,’ she said in an emotional post on Telegram
On Wednesday, a leading Bolshoi prima ballerina also hit out at Putin’s attacks in Ukraine, claiming she is ‘ashamed’ of Russia.
Olga Smirnova, 30, posted her opposition to the invasion of Ukraine – where she has family.
‘I cannot but say that with every fibre of my soul I am against the war,’ she said in an emotional post on Telegram. ‘Probably every other Russian [person] has relatives or friends living in Ukraine.’
The St Petersburg-born star who has two scheduled performances this month said her grandfather is Ukrainian – ‘and I am a quarter Ukrainian’.
Olga Smirnova, 30, posted her opposition to the invasion of Ukraine – where she has family
In a brave, outspoken and heartfelt attack on the war, she said: ‘We continue to live in the 20th century, although nominally in the 21st.
‘Political issues in a modern civilised society should be resolved exclusively through peaceful negotiations. I never thought that I would be ashamed of Russia. I have always been proud of the talented Russian people, our cultural and sporting achievements.
‘But now the line is drawn on the before and after.
‘And it hurts that people are dying, while others are deprived of a roof over their heads or forced to leave their homes.
‘And who would have thought a week ago that all this would happen to us, because even if we are not at the epicentre of hostilities, we cannot remain indifferent to a global catastrophe.’
Here’s how YOU can help: Donate here to the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal
Readers of Mail Newspapers and MailOnline have always shown immense generosity at times of crisis.
Calling upon that human spirit, we are supporting a huge push to raise money for refugees from Ukraine.
For, surely, no one can fail to be moved by the heartbreaking images and stories of families – mostly women, children, the infirm and elderly – fleeing from the bombs and guns.
As this tally of misery increases over the coming days and months, these innocent victims of this conflict will require accommodation, schools and medical support.
Donations to the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal will be used to help charities and aid organisations providing such essential services.
In the name of charity and compassion, we urge all our readers to give swiftly and generously.
TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE
Donate at www.mailforcecharity.co.uk/donate
To add Gift Aid to a donation – even one already made – complete an online form found here: mymail.co.uk/ukraine
Via bank transfer, please use these details:
Account name: Mail Force Charity
Account number: 48867365
Sort code: 60-00-01
TO MAKE A DONATION VIA CHEQUE
Make your cheque payable to ‘Mail Force’ and post it to: Mail Newspapers Ukraine Appeal, GFM, 42 Phoenix Court, Hawkins Road, Colchester, Essex CO2 8JY
TO MAKE A DONATION FROM THE US
US readers can donate to the appeal via a bank transfer to Associated Newspapers or by sending checks to dailymail.com HQ at 51 Astor Place (9th floor), New York, NY 10003
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk