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A New Rhythm in Berryville: Ukrainian Dance Instructor’s Journey from War to Rebirth

A Harrowing Escape from Ukraine to Hope in Berryville

On a chilling morning in February 2022, Olena Kalynii, once a vibrant dance instructor in Ukraine, faced the devastating onset of war right outside her doorstep in Kharkiv. What she first thought were fireworks soon revealed themselves as bombs, uprooting her peaceful life. Together with her family, Olena sought refuge in the crammed spaces of subway stations and neighbors’ basements, each move a desperate bid for safety amid the chaos of war.

From Dance Floors to Bomb Shelters: Olena’s Journey of Resilience

Back home, Olena’s days were filled with music and the joy of teaching dance, a stark contrast to the grim reality of conflict that now surrounded her. The war not only silenced the music but also displaced her family, pushing them to make a perilous escape through multiple countries. Finally, they reached Turkey, a temporary haven that offered a pause but not a home, leading Olena to make another move, this time to the United States.

New Beginnings in Berryville’s Dance Community

In Berryville, Virginia, Olena found not just safety but a chance to reconnect with her life’s passion thanks to Freddie Ciampi, who runs the Social Graces dance studio. Here, Olena was embraced by a community that not only provided refuge but also respected and valued her talents as a dance instructor. This support has been instrumental in helping her navigate the emotional and practical challenges of rebuilding her life and offering her daughter Maria a vision of a peaceful, promising future.

Olena’s story is a poignant reminder of the resilience required to start anew under the most challenging circumstances. It highlights the power of community and the arts in healing and rebuilding the lives of those displaced by conflict.