Jasmine Straga may be halfway around the world from the war in Ukraine, but she’s helping members of her industry escape the conflict.
Ms Straga has been a circus performer since she was 16 and said many in her industry come from Eastern Europe.
“The circus is like a family, wherever you are in the world,” she said.
From her home in Dee Why on Sydney’s northern beaches, she coordinates vital information to help Ukrainians flee their home country and cross the border.
“When they’re in a conflict situation, they don’t have much internet,” she said. “I started doing different border exits that they could take.”
Ms Straga is still heavily involved in the industry and sits on the Board of Directors of the World Circus Federation, Founding Director of the Australian Circus Festival and a member of the Steering Committee of the World Alliance of Circus Schools.
It is through these contacts that she has been able to find accommodation for Ukrainian circus performers as the conflict continues.
She currently attends the Kyiv Academy of Circus and Variety Arts, which has 750 students aged 14-22.
“I try to network with other performing arts schools,” she said.
“I’m looking for schools that can accommodate at least 10 students. It’s not just a place to study, we try to find schools where they will be brought in as if they were family.
“This is the largest circus collaboration in history. Every genre has come forward to support the Ukrainian circus community, with jobs, costumes, training spaces, travel visas, housing and a logistics.”
Circus arts are so popular that the city of Kharkiv has 37 circus schools. But Ms Straga said it had now ‘been erased’.
“The building of the Lviv State Circus is one of those that was not destroyed and circus people from all over the country went there to take shelter and safety like a home halfway between leaving their towns and going to the border,” she said.
Budapest performing arts company Recirquel raises awareness of the situation in Ukraine during its performances of My country.
“Recirquel has rented an entire building and a hotel to house 113 artists. We will have to help them and provide more things to make the artists comfortable.”
- Ms Straga has started a GoFundMe page to help Ukrainian artists who have been caught up in the conflict. To donate, search “Help Displaced Arts Children in Ukraine”.