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Ukraine’s young circus artists wow Budapest after training in bomb shelters at home

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Young acrobats from circus schools across Ukraine dazzled audiences in Budapest this week when the city hosted a Ukrainian youth circus festival to showcase the talents of children forced by the war to train underground or without electricity.

After months of practice in their home cities of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa and Donetsk, the children aged between 6 and 17 gave more than 30 performances alongside competitors from Hungary, Switzerland, Mexico and Italy at Budapest’s Capital Circus.

“As these children are training in air raid shelters by candlelight from morning to night, [we thought] there must be a place where they can show their talent and knowledge,” Budapest Circus director Peter Fekete said.

“We must give them faith that it is worth doing the work, it is worth the training, so we stopped our regular programme for two days this January and ... handed over the circus to our Ukrainian friends.”

Circus artist Mariia Kravchenko, aged 13, from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, had trained for the circus festival in unheated shelters amid the Russian attacks.

“I trained in the circus in Dnipro but we have the war in Ukraine and I was training with air raid sirens and it was hard,” she said with a faint smile, as she prepared to perform her hula hoop show dressed in Ukrainian colours with flowers in her hair.

The Yaskrava Arena Dnipra international children’s circus festival was launched in 2010 by an NGO called Bright Country (Ukraine). Before the war, it was held every year in December at the Dnipro State Circus. Since it began, more than 1,000 young artists from all over Ukraine, as well as Lithuania, Hungary, Germany, Moldova and Poland, have participated in the festival. Winners regularly advance to international festivals in France, Spain and Italy. — Reuters

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