The Spirit of Ukraine: Halyna’s Story

The Spirit of Ukraine: Halyna’s Story

EDITOR’S NOTE: We reached out to the Pilates community in Ukraine to see how everyone was doing five months after the invasion. The responses, from those who have left and those still there, were eye-opening, heartbreaking and inspirational. The people of this country have an indomitable spirit that can’t be broken, and we thought we’d share some of their stories with you. Our first is Halyna’s. And, if you can, click on the link at the bottom and donate to assist Ukraine. Many thanks to Katherine Ryzhova for translation assistance.

My name is Halyna Dobrovolska and I’m from Kyiv, Ukraine. I’m currently staying in Toronto, Canada.

My family and I left Kyiv on the 25th of February. I am lucky enough to be originally from the Western part of the country, from Ternopil, so we packed just the most necessary stuff like toothbrushes and some clothes, and left our home first thing in the morning, at 7a.m. (when the curfew allowed). As we live at the outskirts of the city, the roads were not busy yet and we had a full tank of gas, but it still took us twice the usual time to get to my parents’ home.

After a week of hiding in the cellar during air raids my husband decided that it’d be better for me and my daughter to leave the country altogether, so he took us to the border of Moldova, where my friends from Chisinau met us and we stayed with them for a month, waiting for the visas to arrive. When the documents were finally in order we had to cross the border to Romania, as the airports in Moldova were closed due to its proximity to Ukraine and all the bombing there. From Iassi we flew to Warsaw and then Toronto.

Halyna doing Pilates in a cellar/bomb shelter

The 24th of February changed so much for so many so quickly. I remember that morning, my business partner and I were to go choose the floors for our future Pilates studio. We were to open in April. Now, it’s postponed indefinitely.

I grew restless during those first few weeks, not knowing what to expect, or if my friends all over the country were still alive. Hence came the decision to create a Telegram group for Pilates teachers of Ukraine, so that we could have some morning “calls” for support and connection. I believe it really helped us. In fact through that group my colleague, Katya Smirnova, started receiving job offers from her colleagues abroad. So she created another “job group”, and it was a big success!

I’m proud of many things about my country and its people. They’re kind, supportive, strong, and resilient. They’re talented and hardworking. Everything is beautiful about Ukraine and its people. I’m hoping to be able to come back and hug my friends and family.

And to see my husband again. Preferably not on a zoom call.


Balanced Body thoroughly believes that movement can change people’s lives. We are the leading resource for Pilates and mindful movement equipment, information and education for fitness centers, studios, rehabilitation facilities and home enthusiasts.


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