Most Dancing with the Stars fans followed Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s harrowing experience of being stuck in Ukraine during the Russian invasion.
However, Maksim wasn’t the only DWTS pro to have a strong connection with the ongoing war.
Artem Chigvintsev is from Russia, and his parents and brother still live in the country. He has said he is scared he will never see them again.
Much like Maksim, Karina Smirnoff was also born in Ukraine, and she said she is losing friends and family to the war.
Karina Smirnoff talks war in Ukraine
Karina said that watching what is happening during the war after Russian invaded Ukraine is “very stressful” for her,
In an interview with PEOPLE, Karina said that she spends most mornings on the phone, trying to figure out how to help people escape Ukraine.
“Every early morning starts with checking the phone, speaking to [those in] Ukraine, trying to figure out if we can get some people across the border and to safety,” Karina said.
The United Nations reports that over three million people have fled Ukraine since the war began.
Karina said she wants to help, “whether it’s sending money, whether it’s getting them to a location that has humanitarian port, the corridor where they can get the food, water, clothing, blankets, whatever.”
She also said that the most stressful part is that she still has friends and family in Ukraine, and many of them are dying.
“We’re losing people. I know people who have been killed. I know people who have been lost and unaccounted for.”
Karina also counts her own blessings. Being in the United States, she knows she is safe with her son, Theo, 2.
“I picture my son being in that situation,” she says. “It’s depressing, it’s heartbreaking, it’s tragic. You feel helpless.”
Artem Chigvintsev worries he won’t see his family again
People whose family lives in Russia are also facing their own fears.
Artem Chigvintsev, who is now an American citizen, said he has not spoken to his parents or brother since the war started, and he is worried he might never see them again.
“I want to make very clear to everyone that I don’t support war of any kind. It’s devastating to see people die and suffer the costs,” Artem said.
“The thought of me not being able to see my Mom, Dad and Brother are very real, the thought of my son never be able to be held by my parents are also very real.”
Dancing with the Stars is on hiatus. The dancing reality competition series should return to ABC in late 2022.