Camouflage instead of glitter dress: Ukrainian star dancer takes up arms

Camouflage instead of glitter dress
Ukrainian star dancer takes up arms

Dmytro Dikussar is a star in Ukraine. In the counterpart to “Let’s Dance” there, he teaches celebrities to dance on television. With the beginning of the war, Dikussar changes from the sequin suit to the camouflage patch – and now trains military laymen, like himself, how to use the weapon.

The Ukrainians know Dmytro Dikussar above all like this: always with a friendly smile and with noble-looking bows in front of the audience. The Russian invasion of Ukraine gave the professional dancer, choreographer and director, who took part in the television show “Dancing with the Stars” and tried to help celebrities win, an unwanted break from performing. But he didn’t want to sit idly by. “After the first explosion I knew it was war,” he says. “After that, I had only one plan: get my loved ones to safety and immediately go into battle.”

Three days after the beginning of the war he went to the next conscription office. The 36-year-old swapped his dancing shoes for military boots, and in these he is walking across a Ukrainian army training ground today, as he reports via Facebook. He has vowed not to give the Russians an inch of his land and not to forgive anything. “That is my wish and my duty.” A photo he shared on social media in uniform has “Armed Forces of Ukraine” emblazoned across his left breast. There is no rank of service. Where exactly he is, he prefers to keep to himself. When Dikussar looks around today, he doesn’t see nationally known stars and glaring spotlights, but simple soldiers. Some of them had experience in the army and in combat, others like him had none.

“I had at least a little amateur gun shooting experience,” says Dikussar. He can’t say the same about the others. Among the newcomers to military service in his unit are a geography teacher, a truck driver, a restorer of paintings and icons, a grandfather of three grandchildren – and a locksmith. Before the war, according to Western analysts, Ukraine had around 300,000 active-duty soldiers and National Guardsmen. In addition, when the war began, tens of thousands volunteered to join the newly formed territorial defense units. These are also subordinate to the army command. Above all, reservists with experience are taken on. Kyiv has also been asserting for years that no untrained army recruits are sent to the front.

Missile hits military facility

Dikussar didn’t have time to get used to his new role. After completing the formalities, he was taken to a distribution center for training. “But it was destroyed by a rocket attack seven days later,” says Dikussar. Everyone was still asleep when the shelling began. “So everyone was remote controlled, but there was no panic.” He himself was next to rockets and hadn’t the slightest idea how dangerous they were.

Dikussar shared a video on his Facebook page after the incident. It’s hard to see details, but it’s ablaze and one man shouts profanities at the Russians, his voice mixed with desperation and anger. It’s thanks to God for the professionalism of the commanders and the good coordination among the soldiers that “almost all of them escaped this hell,” he comments on another picture showing burned-out vehicles.

In the war that began in February, Russia repeatedly targeted barracks and training centers of the Ukrainian army with rockets. However, there is no reliable information on the losses of the Ukrainian units. In mid-March, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy only named a number of “about 1,300” dead. The Russian army, on the other hand, has claimed that more than 14,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the fighting.

“On the ground we make hell hot for the devil”

Meanwhile, Dikussar and his comrades find themselves in a new place. A new training center was built from scratch in a very short space of time. “I have agreed to train recruits on weapons while I await deployment to a combat unit,” says Dikussar. He trains himself every day and trains others at the same time. Russian soldiers have not come under him so far. “But like all the guys here, I can’t wait to pay him back in his own coin.”

The rocket attack occupied him longer. He found out later that they were ballistic surface-to-surface missiles. Intimidated, says Dikussar, this did not have him and his comrades. On the contrary, he even raised their morale. He gave them further confirmation that each of them must do everything possible to stop these “dishonorable and treacherous brutes”. “And not to feel sorry for them in battle.” He has not regretted his decision to join the army for a second.

The conviction that the Ukrainian troops have something to oppose the all-powerful Russian invader has already reached the novice Dicussar. “On the ground we make hell hot for the devil,” he says. “If we could close the sky…”

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