The ice dance community is known for its rich diversity and the strong bonds that unite its members. This was highlighted by the widespread support for Ukrainian ice dancers Oleksandra Nazarova and Maksym Nikitin. Even individuals who weren’t directly connected to the pair have stepped forward to offer their help, including members of the skating world previously unfamiliar with them.
Typically residing in Moscow, the skaters went back to Kharkiv, their birthplace, after the 2022 Olympics. This city has suffered significant damage due to recent events.
The invasion of Ukraine has deeply affected Madison Chock and Evan Bates, much like it has the rest of the globe. The pair has a history with the Ukrainian team, having shared training facilities in Detroit years back.
The well-being of Nazarova and Nikitin is a priority for them, a concern that was clear from their answers in a recent teleconference when queries about the Team Event medal ceremony came up, to which Chock and Bates showed little desire to discuss.
“I have been thinking about what is going on in Russia and Ukraine, but it has nothing to do with our situation,” Chock said. “What is happening right now is really devastating. I think about our Ukrainian friends who have just had the biggest highlight of their life (at the Olympics) and then they went home to a war in their country. It breaks my heart. It is hard to think about anything else. An Olympic medal seems like really not a big deal in light of all of that.”
“It (the war) puts things in perspective,” Bates added. “We have tried to keep in touch with our Ukrainian friends Sasha and Max who we trained with when we were in Michigan. We saw them in Beijing and had never seen them happier.
“And then we came home and in trading messages … it is difficult to comprehend and grapple with having a similar experience in Beijing, and then returning to such a different world and life experience. That has been hard for us to digest. It (the medal ceremony) is not of importance to us at this point.”
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue also share a camaraderie with the Ukrainian ice dance duo. “While I personally haven’t had the chance to train alongside them, it’s inevitable in the skating community to cross paths frequently,” Hubbell remarked.
“I have not spoken with them directly but what I heard through the grapevine was that they were finally given permission to leave and they are now safely out of Ukraine and in Poland. I did not speak to them personally but I heard there is a possibility they could attend the World Championships.
“I was speaking with Gabriella (Papadakis). I know she is trying to urge them — if at all possible to come and participate at Worlds, even if they do not feel that they are competitive.
“Gabriella is definitely doing her part in not only reaching out to them, but also asking all of us at the rink if we would be willing or able to bring supplies to them if they need something. I know they left very abruptly so I can only hope that we see them and surround them with a loving community. What is happening is, in general, just horrible to watch.”
“I was feeling that I had to do something and wondered what I could do for them. Having never worked with any of the skaters before, I reached out on Instagram on Tuesday and told them that if I can do anything to support or to enhance your music before Worlds, it would be a great pleasure to help,” Chouinard explained.
“Oleksandra (Nazarova) responded, thanking me for the support and asked if I could take the music for the rhythm dance and change it ‘because we do not want to skate to happy music.’ They want the music of their program to express what they are living through. I immediately responded, ‘yes, I will do this for you.’”
“I sent them a version at about one in the morning on Thursday and we are now refining everything.
“Just working on this and watching the videos and images we are working with, I had tears in my eyes while editing. It is really moving. This program has a meaning that is so deep, so real. It’s life. It is what these people are living and what they want to express to the world.
“I feel that this is the most significant program I have made in 30 years.”