Maksim Chmerkovskiy, 42, recently seemed to try and relax while getting some fresh air on the balcony of his apartment in Malibu, CA, just days after he admitted that his Dancing With the Stars fame helped him to flee Ukraine after Russia’s invasion. The ballroom dance champion was photographed looking at his phone while wearing a white T-shirt and black shorts as he looked up at cameras for a moment during the outing. He also wore white wireless ear buds and appeared to be either listening to something on his phone or chatting with someone.
The outing comes just a week after he spoke out about his experience in Ukraine. The Ukrainian-American revealed that he got arrested before fleeing the country via a train from Poland but his star status gave him the ability to escape.
“They’re like, ‘Passport.’ I pull out my American passport. He starts speaking English with me. I was like, ‘I speak Russian.’ Then I regretted saying that. I thought maybe it was wrong,” Maksim explained in an interview on Good Morning America on March 4. “But then the guy next to him goes, ‘Oh, that’s the judge from Dancing With the Stars. That’s Maks. I know him. He’s from TV,’ He goes, ‘Get inside. Right now.’”
Maksim documented his time in Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded the country on Feb. 24 and further explained that although he “wasn’t gonna get shot” when he was arrested, he is still thankful that his Dancing With the Stars fame no doubt assisted him in getting away. “I felt like things got real and all of a sudden I don’t have all of the things needed to feel safe in this place at all,” he said. “I’m not built for this at all. I’m just realizing that I’m not in a place where I should be.”
Maksim eventually landed in the U.S. on March 2 and reunited with his wife Peta Murgatroyd, 35, at the airport. Despite his openness about the scary experience, he’s been receiving criticism from some social media users who think he shouldn’t have been treated differently because he’s recognizable from a television show. Some even suggested he should have stayed in Ukraine and fought.
“These are foreign soldiers from different parts of the world fighting for the country YOU fled,” one Twitter user wrote while adding a video of soldiers walking in the cold weather. Others commended him for speaking out and documenting his struggles and time there. “That celebrity status & special visa can help Maksim open up many more avenues of help for others like he has been doing rather than if he stayed in harms way trying to fight & survive there like everyone else in Ukraine is trying to do,” a user pointed out.
Amid all the public opinions, since returning to the U.S., Maksim said the situation has been “very difficult to process” and he isn’t exactly proud of how things turned out. “I cried on the way from the airport. I felt embarrassed,” he said in his recent interview. “I felt embarrassed the entire ride back because I was the only man on the train amongst all women and children.”