Ukrainian ballet dancer, 13, follows her dreams in Italy

The story of Vasilisa who fled Ukraine with her dance shoes.

Vasilisa, a 13-year-old girl from Ukraine, has always dreamed of being a ballerina.

She attended a top dance academy in Kyiv until it closed abruptly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than two weeks ago.

Amid the horrors and tragedy of war, Vasilisa's dreams seemed to be crushed, reports Italian state broadcaster RAI News.

Then, on the suggestion of a Japanese dancer, Vasilisa's mother took a chance and sent an email to a prestigious dance school in Spinea, in the northern Veneto region of Italy.

"My name is Giulia. My daughter Vasilisa studies at Serge Lifar's Kyiv Academy of Dance in the classical music department" - she wrote - "Today we are forced to leave our Ukraine. Can we continue our studies in your Academy?”

When the heads of the school, dancers Letizia Giuliani and her husband Francesco Marzola, read the unexpected message on Monday last week they replied immediately in the affirmative.

“We had set up a collection in our dance school for goods to be sent by bus to Ukraine, we wanted to be useful, to help whatever way we could" - Marzola told RAI News - "The email arrived just as we were filling the parcels."

In Kyiv, a thrilled Vasilisa packed her ballet shoes and her mother bought tickets for the gruelling bus journey to Italy.

However the joy was bittersweet as it meant splitting up their family: Giulia's other daughter is a doctor, specialising in pediatric oncohematology. Her skills are too important for her to leave the children in Ukraine right now.

Giulia's husband also remains in Ukraine, defending his country along with all the men between the ages of 18 and 60.

Last Thursday Vasilisa and her mother made the 1,400-km bus journey, together with their little dog Lily, arriving in the Treviso area 36 hours later.

"When I saw them get off the bus it was wonderful" - Marzola told RAI - "The little girl came down smiling with the dog in her hand, her mother worn out by the situation."

As he was driving them to their new home he received a phone call asking him how it was going. “At that point, instead of the right words to answer the question" - he said - "tears and a great cry of emotion came out.”

A local woman is hosting Vasilisa and Giulia as her guests, opening the doors of her home in Mirano, about a kilometre from the dance school, RAI reports.

One of the school's students, a 12-year-old girl of Ukrainian heritage, is helping Vasilisa with the Italian language, while Marzola said his own children were able to communicate easily with her using Google Translate.

“Once at home the girls talked about dance, they discussed the study programne" - he said - "Vasilisa seemed for a while to have forgotten the horrors of war. Her mother, on the other hand, was thrilled to see this.”

And so, one week after Giulia sent the life-changing email from war-torn Ukraine, Vasilisa began her first dance lesson in Italy.

"The girls welcomed her with affection" - said Marzola - “They had no problem communicating with each other, it was all so natural: they spoke the universal language of dance."

Photo RAI News - Instagram Serenella Bettin