Only a two-hour flight away, Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are shooting at each other. Meanwhile, Russian and Ukrainian artists work and live together in circuses in Germany. War refugees are also welcome here.
Neuwied/Munich – The two clowns drive a rowing boat in the ring and distribute giant soap bubbles over the audience. Children’s eyes light up, applause and laughter in Neuwied am Rhein. The clown couple is also a married couple in real life.
Katharina from Russia and Gnadi from the Ukraine perform in the German “Moscow Circus”. Director Gino Frank says to his 70-strong troop: “We have 20 Russians and 9 Ukrainians.” Just a two-hour flight to the east, soldiers from these two nations shoot at each other – in Neuwied Frank emphasizes: “We are one big family all year round Space. We don’t want war. It’s a tragedy.” Ukrainian flags are demonstratively waving in front of his circus tent.
Around 250 circuses nationwide
According to the CEO of the Association of German Circus Companies, Ralf Huppertz, artists from Russia and the Ukraine perform in many of the approximately 250 circuses nationwide: “They were better supported in the former Eastern Bloc. There are still state circuses there.” Due to their great tradition, circus artists are sometimes more recognized in Eastern Europe than in the West. Some circuses have the problem “that artists can no longer get out of Ukraine”. Circus director Frank also lists Russia, Ukraine and China as the most important circus nations in the world.
In his company, the artists from around ten nations were happy about the restart after a two-year Corona break. But the eight-piece circus orchestra from Ukraine is missing: “They got their visas before the war, but were confiscated at their border shortly after February 24 and now have to defend their country.” Music therefore from tape.
All nations under one roof
The “Circus Krone” in Munich also gives many Ukrainian artists a second home. With the start of the program on February 12, the artists arrived at the circus – barely two weeks later their world was different. Friends and relatives of the artists who were able to flee from the Ukraine to Bavaria after the outbreak of war were welcomed with open arms by one of the largest circuses in the world. “You can all stay as long as it is necessary,” emphasizes Frank Keller from “Circus Krone”. According to him, the circus should be non-political and unite all nations under one roof.
With the help of the show, the artists can switch off and experience an everyday life that they previously lost. “If you’re not looking at your cell phone, you often think that everything is normal,” emphasizes a dancer from the theater group “Bingo”. The employees are torn between their everyday life at “Circus Krone” and the suffering in their home country.
According to its director Gino Frank, the name of the “Moscow Circus”, based in Hamminkeln in North Rhine-Westphalia, is intended to evoke the great Eastern European circus tradition: “We are not ashamed of our name.” The “Moscow Circus” should not be confused with the Russian one “Great Moscow State Circus”.
Gino Frank is married to Leyla Mak, daughter of a Russian ex-general director of several circuses and a former Ukrainian artist. According to a statement from the city of Neuwied, Mak emphasizes that the circus should be a symbol of “that this war is not the war of the Russian people against the Ukrainian people. Our family, our circus dynasty came from the love between Ukrainian and Russian artists.”
hostilities because of name
Initially, the name “Moscow Circus” in Neuwied led to misunderstandings – a Russian troupe of artists graced by President Vladimir Putin? City spokesman Frank Blum reports hostilities. The municipality also had posters removed first, but backtracked after talking to the circus. In a statement, the city shows “understanding for the emotionally heated situation, but emphatically warns against blanket condemnation of all Russian or Russian-speaking people”.
Leyla Mak’s parents live in Ukraine near the Russian border – his wife is very afraid for her, reports Gino Frank. The current show of the “Moscow Circus” was deliberately christened “One World” – in the spirit of international understanding.
Erika Kuth with four children is also at the performance in Neuwied. “My mother is from Russia,” she says. “I think the agitation against the Russians here, who are not for Putin, is terrible. I felt sorry for the circus with its name. We are happy to support him.”
Dietmar Rieth, once a member of the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament for the Greens, is also present with his four-year-old granddaughter Maya and other family: The joint performance by Russian and Ukrainian artists must be supported as “good news” in the fight against local Russia phobia, he says. Putin is a warring despot that not all of his countrymen are behind.
Several hundred spectators are soon sitting in the large chapiteau, as a circus tent is called in technical jargon. Tightrope walkers jump through rings of fire, aerial acrobats get applause in unison, a trampoline jumper does a triple somersault, young and old spectators devour popcorn and cotton candy, a parrot pushes a mini shopping cart.
A circus ballet with six Ukrainian women will soon be added. Director Frank says: “We take them in as refugees.” Plus up to 20 other displaced persons from the Ukraine. dpa