Ukraine’s celebrities are dying in the war, adding an extra dimension to the nation’s shock.

Ukraine’s celebrities are dying in the war, adding an extra dimension to the nation’s shock.

This originally appeared in The New York Times here.

March 19, 2022 | The New York Times
Pasha Lee, photographed in uniform shortly before his death.
Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Ada Petriczko
March 19, 2022
The New York Times

A male ballet dancer. An award-winning female actor. A biathlete. An actor who posted glamorous selfies on Instagram to his nearly 13,000 followers until he joined up and uploaded two final shots of himself looking stylish in camouflage.

These are some of the Ukrainian celebrities killed since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Their deaths add an extra dimension to the country’s shock and anguish over the war.

Artem Datsishin, one of Ukraine’s leading dancers and a former principal dancer with the National Opera of Ukraine, died on Thursday at a hospital in the capital city of Kyiv. He had been wounded last month by Russian artillery fire, according to posts by two friends on social media.

Mr Datsishin was a past winner of the prestigious Serge Lifar prize, named after a Ukrainian considered one of the 20th century’s most important ballet dancers and choreographers.

“I cannot express my heartache,” said Tatiana Borovik on Facebook, in a post that announced the date of Mr Datsishin’s funeral.

The Ukrainian actress Oksana Shvets was killed in a rocket attack on the capital, the Kyiv Post newspaper reported on Thursday. Ms Shvets was a member of the city’s Young Theater and had won the Merited Artist of Ukraine award in 1996. A photograph on the theater’s website shows her in costume onstage.

The war is reducing the distance between famous and ordinary Ukrainians because so many non-celebrities are making heroic sacrifices, said Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties. It has also made many people focus on issues of life and death that eclipse focus on fame.

“Prominent people do not use their privileged status to escape but to stand with the whole nation in this dramatic time,” Ms Matviichuk said, though she added that what has shocked her most about the war has been the killing of children.

The International Biathlon Union mourned the death of a 19-year-old athlete, Yevhen Malyshev. It said in a Twitter post on March 2 that he died while serving in the military. Biathlon is a sport combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.

Pasha Lee, an actor from Crimea, was killed in Irpin on Sunday, according to local journalists and the Odessa International Film Festival. The city, 15 miles northwest of Kyiv, has seen intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Mr Lee, 33, worked in theater and cinema. He was also a television host, singer and composer.

Before the war, his Instagram feed reflected a glamorous lifestyle. One picture showed him on a yacht, another scuba diving, a third in Dubai.

Mr Lee joined Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces when the war began.

On March 1, he was pictured seated at a table in army fatigues and a beret. In his last Instagram post on March 4 he is again in combat gear, this time seated next to a woman also in uniform. The caption says they were being bombed, adding that “we smile because we will manage.”

He died in shelling two days later.


Matthew Mpoke Bigg is a correspondent covering international news. He previously worked as a reporter, editor and bureau chief for Reuters and did postings in Nairobi, Abidjan, Atlanta, Jakarta and Accra.