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Circus performers in Glasgow describe tragic escape from war in Ukraine

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Two brave circus performers have returned to the top and are performing in Glasgow after escaping the war in Ukraine on foot. Contributed by Robert Perry

Two brave circus performers have returned to the top and are performing in Glasgow after escaping the war in Ukraine on foot.

Married circus extreme performers Henry Ayala, 42, and Tatiana Kundik, 37, and their two-year-old son, Leonardo, were with the family on the outskirts of Kyiv when war broke out on Ukraine.

Glasgow Times:

Mr. Ayala, better known as Henry the Prince of Clown, is the face of Circus Extreme and is world-renowned for his work as both a clown and a tightrope performer.

Ms. Kundik, from Ukraine, has been on several shows like Britain’s Got Talent in several countries for her extraordinary balancing act on a dull string.

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The young family was on their way to visit Ms Kundik’s parents on the outskirts of Kyiv in February when war broke out in the dark of night over Ukraine.

Ms. Kundik and Mr. Ayala recount the harrowing events that lead them to flee the country on foot with their infant son.

Ms Kundick told The Glasgow Times: “We were having a beautiful dinner, a beautiful night, good and sound sleep, then at five in the morning we woke up to missiles and explosions.

“And my mother knocked on my door and she said, ‘You have to leave. The war has started.’

“We panicked and started packing. Roads and everything was completely blocked.

“People were panicking, everyone was leaving Kyiv.”

Glasgow Times:

Mr Ayola said: “We were gone that night and there was a lot of traffic, so we managed to go back home and organize ourselves a bit more.

“We just went into a panic, you know.”

Confused by the chaos around them, Mr. Ayola and Ms. Kundyk tried to figure out what was going on, before deciding again that they had to leave Ukraine.

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The couple drove as far as possible from Kyiv to Poland, sometimes having to drive the wrong way on roads or cut through fields until they could drive any closer.

Mr Ayola said: “It was freezing cold.”

Ms Kundik said: “There was a queue of cars, I think a 12km queue of cars up to the border.

“So my nephew, he left us as close as he could, but the rest of the way we just had to walk.

“We crossed the border with Poland on foot, and when we crossed it was midnight and we didn’t know where we were going.”

Glasgow Times:

He had to wait four hours to cross the border in the cold with his son. His phone had run out of battery and his credit cards were frozen.

Mr Ayola and Ms Kundik were taken by volunteers to Warsaw, where they stayed for 10 days waiting for UK visas.

After a tough test, the talented duo is back to delight the audience with their captivating circus routine and will be performing in Glasgow till August 14.

Glasgow Times:

The artist is happy in Scotland but is still very concerned about his family members who have lived in Ukraine.

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Ms Kundik said: “I see Ukrainian flags everywhere and it’s, like, great.

“This sense of support, and that people around the world support you, and understand, and share the pain, is really important.”

Circus Extreme is an awe-inspiring show for all ages that mixes circus performance styles from extreme stunts to classic clowns.

Acts include an award-winning high-wire act by Ayala Troop, freestyle motocross and globe of death stunt riding performances, world record juggling, death-defying aerial stunts and a sci-fi inspired aerial hoop show.

Mr Ayola said: “Glasgow, we think it’s a beautiful big city.

“We are here for two more weeks, and we are just waiting to entertain you guys, bring happiness to Glasgow people and Glasgow visitors.

“The weather isn’t so nice outside, but it’s always nice inside the circus tent.”

He said: “If you haven’t seen the circus before, of course, this is the circus you should see first because it is the best circus show.

“It’s a new genre of show, so it’s great, it’s really, for all people of all ages.”

Circus Extreme prides itself on having something for everyone.

The show takes place within a large top at the Silverburn Shopping Center car park both afternoon and evening.

The last date in Glasgow before going on a tour of the circus is 14 August.

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