Ukrainian acrobat who hid in basement for 10 days makes city debut

The Warrior Teeterboard group, from left, John Quinche, Giovanny Guzman, and Juan Manuel Navarro, a

The Warrior Teeterboard group, from left, John Quinche, Giovanny Guzman, and Juan Manuel Navarro, at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park. - Credit: Denise Bradley

A group of performers who fled their war-torn country have shared the terrifying journey they undertook to make it to a city stage.

Circus Cortex, launched by husband-and-wife duo Paul and Irina Archer last summer, is on show in the Big Top in Catton Park from Friday, July 15 until Sunday, July 17.

Their spectacular includes 24 performers.

Clowns Eduard and Galina Tkach, with unicycle duo, Viktor Gorodetskyyand Yullia Gorodetska at the Ci

Clowns Eduard and Galina Tkach, with unicycle duo, Viktor Gorodetskyyand Yullia Gorodetska at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Around 16 are from Ukraine and up until May were either trapped in their home country or were making the perilous journey to the UK.

One of those is Tania Lotiuk, 23, who was in Kharkiv teaching dance when Russia invaded on February 24.

The Warrior Teeterboard group and dancers at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park.

Tania Lotiuk, 23, second from the left at the front, in the Warrior Teeterboard group, which is part of Circus Cortex - Credit: Denise Bradley

The dancer, who comes from Mykolaiv, had to hide for 10 days in a basement below the flat where she was living.

She said: "It was a nightmare. There were days when you would hear an explosion and I did not know if I would still be here. It was scary."

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Miss Lotiuk escaped over the Hungarian border on three separate train journeys over three days and had to hide in the snow at one point.

She left behind her 32-year-old brother and parents, saying: "I cannot believe that my country can be ruined in one moment."

Miss Lotiuk had secured the contract to perform in Norfolk before the war began.

She added: "With performances it is about smiling even if disaster is happening.

"Being in the circus helps me because it means I don't think about the war 24/7. When people realise we are from the Ukraine they give us support - it is like honey for the heart."

Viktor Gorodetskyy on the unicycle at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park.

Viktor Gorodetskyy on the unicycle at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Unicyclist Viktor Gorodetskiy, 38, spent three months in the city of Mykolaiv in his flat with his wife and six-year-old daughter before escaping and joining Circus Cortex on May 22.

He said: "It was a difficult time. I think a lot about how safe my family are."

Mr Gorodetskiy and the other male performers were given special permission to leave the country by Ukraine's government.

The Warrior Teeterboard group, from left, Juan Manuel Navarro, John Quinche, and Giovanny Guzman at

The Warrior Teeterboard group, from left, Juan Manuel Navarro, John Quinche, and Giovanny Guzman at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Mr Archer, 60, from Yorkshire, said: "The circus is vital brings a bit of normality to their lives."

Clowns Eduard and Galina Tkach at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park.

Clowns Eduard and Galina Tkach at the Circus Cortex, at Catton Park. - Credit: Denise Bradley

The circus troupe is also putting on a new show in Cromer from July 21 to Monday August 1.