Former "Dancing with the Stars" ballroom professional Maksim Chmerkovskiy has returned to Eastern Europe to help oversee the work of his recently founded charitable organization Baranova 27, and to encourage his fans to support others' Ukrainian relief efforts there.
In an Instagram video posted early Tuesday from Poland, Chmerkovskiy, who had evacuated from his native Ukraine earlier this month when Russia invaded the country, introduces fellow dancer Jakub Rybicki. "He's on the ground, he's been, since Day One, doing everything he could. He started collecting people, he started putting them up" in his home, with 12 Ukrainian refugees, most of them children, currently living there.
In accompanying text, Chmerkovskiy, 42, wrote that Rybicki "put his personal life on hold and [has] been working seven days a week almost non stop, driving back and forth into Ukraine, delivering A LOT of aid, picking people up at the border and finding a place for them to stay So far he picked up and placed over 200 people with another 1000 planed for in the next few weeks."
On Sunday, the Odessa-born Chmerkovskiy, who had gone to Ukraine in February to serve as a judge on that country's edition of "World of Dance," posted a nearly 15-minute Instagram video detailing the work of Baranova 27, founded with his brother and fellow "Dancing with the Stars" veteran Val Chmerkovskiy.
"Baranova 27 is the address where my father, myself and Val were born, in Odessa, Ukraine," he explained. "So that's where our roots are. We've been working diligently on making Baranova 27 something that, as big as it took off, it can continue that way." From an initial fundraiser that garnered $123,000, he said, "We shipped out to date 134,000 pounds … of aid. We split them into four categories: things for soldiers, first aid, things to do with babies and some hygiene products." The organization's distribution hub is in the border city of Lviv, Ukraine.
He urged those wanting to contribute to Ukrainian humanitarian aid to visit his organization online at linktr.ee/baranova27, and to help support Rybicki at paypal.me/jakubrybicki88. Chmerkovskiy also gave a shout out to Hamptons habitué and former "The Real Housewives of New York City" star Bethenny Frankel, who through her charitable organization BStrong has "been doing amazing work. She has a couple of centers right at the border."