at war

The Culture Fights Back project to share stories of artists and civil society representatives who have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In this section, we tell the stories of Ukrainian theater actors, ballet dancers, opera singers and choreographers who, often despite a complete lack of military experience, joined the ranks of the army at the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion.

Oleksandr Shapoval

Oleksandr Shapoval was a Ukrainian ballet dancer and soloist of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater of Ukraine. He  was killed in September 2022 on the front line in Donetsk region. 

Noted as an Honored Artist of Ukraine since 2013, Oleksandr had been active for 28 years, performing 30 different roles in numerous plays such as Giselle, Don Quixote, The Corsair, Carmen, and Julius Caesar. He also performed in Ukrainian plays, like Mavka, The Forest Song and Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka. After his retirement in 2021, he taught at the Kyiv State Choreographic College. The talented duet dance teacher then decided to leave his students and family to protect Ukraine’s independence and peaceful future. 

Since the first days of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, Oleksandr – without any previous military training – voluntarily joined the Territorial Defense Unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in Kyiv oblast. After the region was liberated, he went on to fight as a grenadier in combat hot zones. He was killed in action while defending Donetsk region; Russian occupants have left his two children without their beloved father. 

1 – Photo from Valentyna Samchenko
2 – Photo from Kyiv State Choreographic School
Read articles about Oleksandr Shapoval in English:
The Washington Post | The Times