Maksim Chmerkovskiy has returned home to Los Angeles.
The Ukrainian-American pro dancer, who was in Ukraine when Russia invaded last week and documented his journey fleeing the war-torn country, touched town in the U.S. on Wednesday. His wife, Peta Murgatroyd, met him at LAX airport for an emotional reunion.
Murgatroyd, wearing a blue and yellow ribbon in her hair in support of Ukraine, ran to her husband when he walked out and they shared a long hug. They started to toward the exit, but then stopped to hug again.
Photographers and reporters were waiting for the Dancing With the Stars couple. Chmerkovskiy talked to Entertainment Tonight about being home.
"I just don't want to resent peace somewhere else because of what I just saw, that's the reality," he said. "I don't know really what to say right this second."
Outside the terminal, he was asked by another reporter about his decision to document the war from Kyiv in its first few days, as well as his decision to ultimately leave the country, which was a 23-hour journey via train to the Poland border.
"Look, I was told to get a gun. I was told to watch YouTube videos to use an AK," he said. Holding up his phone, he said, "I decided this is my gun and I'm going to do my best with this. If that's not something that's enough to protect me personally while I was there, well then that be it. I made that choice."
He continued, "For me it's important that my friends over there survive right this second. I don't care about answering politically correctly or figuring out what to say. I have no idea what to say. I have no idea what I'm going to do right this second. I'm trying to process all of this, and I just want to go home."
Chmerkovskiy showed love to the people in the country he was born in but emigrated from in 1994 when his family to New York when he was a teen.
"The reason why Ukraine is standing right now is, number one, because of the Ukrainian people," he said. "Number two, because for eight years they were in that conflict and they knew it was a pressure cooker that just blew up. They expected it. And the fact that the entire world is helping."
Chmerkovskiy gave a "huge shout out to Poland," where he fled before flying from Warsaw back to U.S., and "neighboring countries" taking the more than 1 million refugees displaced amid this battle. "The way I was treated through the whole process of leaving into Poland, I've just got to bow down to the Polish people."
Before driving off to reunite with his 5-year-old son Shai at home, Chmerkovskiy said, "I think that in 2022, following this action, we have to completely rethink the way we do things as a planet. There can never again be one person who can do something like this ever again," referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We have to have checks and balances globally, not just one country at a time."
Chmerkovskiy was in his homeland shooting the reality competition World of Dance UA. While tensions with Russia escalated, he said the intel he had didn't indicate a war would break out so he stayed in the county.
Then, Kyiv was under attack — and he was in a bomb shelter. He stayed for a few days, sharing regular updates on his phone. After getting arrested, though it's still unclear what he was arrested for, he told his Instagram followers he was going to flee. Having a U.S. passport gave him the chance other Ukrainians don't have, he acknowledged. According to reports, Ukrainian men ages 18 to 60 were told they cannot flee under martial law.
Chmerkovskiy documented his train ride to Poland, where his train car, which typically fit 30 people, swelled to 135. An entire car was devoted to sick children and adults. He stood the entire ride, not sleeping for a total of 36 hours from when he left Kyiv to arriving at his Warsaw hotel.
Having initially left the country in 1994 amid years of political turmoil living there, Chmerkovskiy shared on Instagram how "stressful" this experience has been. "I’m getting old feelings back, like I’ve done this before. This does feel like the way it was when and why we left in the '90s. Like my old PTSD I’ve finally fixed is coming back."
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