To Defenders of Freedom

Ballerina Lesia Vorotniuk joined the territorial defense unit

Lesia Vorotniuk is a ballerina at the Kyiv National Opera House. But after Russia’s full-scale invasion, she decided to defend Ukraine with a gun. “I could shoot,” says Vorotniuk. “This is my hobby. I knew that I would not go abroad in case of an invasion. I would fight.”

Vorotniuk has known for a long time what the war looks like. In 2014, she took a break from dancing and traveled to the east of Ukraine to see what life was like near the frontline. Lesia lost her husband in the war: the father of their son died three years ago during hostilities.

At the end of February, when a full-scale war began, Lesia Vorotniuk helped evacuate civilians from Kyiv. “I took people out on bypass roads. They were mostly my friends, women with children,” Lesia recalls.

Later she joined the territorial defense unit in Kyiv. Lesia guarded her district in Kyiv with a weapon and was on duty at checkpoints. “It was terrible,” she remembers. “Fear of saboteurs was everywhere.”

Lesia Vorotniuk during a performance at the Kyiv National Opera House. Photo: Oleksandra Zlunitsyna

Vorotniuk knows that she may be called up for military service anytime. She still practices shooting almost every day and keeps patrolling her neighborhood. Due to the missile strikes on the city, she is constantly reminded that war is still nearby.

And Lesia has a very close person to protect. She shows a photo of her little son on her phone. He is wrapped in her late husband’s bulletproof vest.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of June, Vorotniuk decided that it was time to dance again. She took part in a performance of “Die Libelle” by Joseph Strauss. “Her superpower as a dancer is her courage,” says Viktor Lytvynov, choreographer of the Kyiv National Opera House. “Such a feature of character makes Lesia a brave warrior.”

Lesia told her story to The Economist

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