Peta Murgatroyd Thought Maks Chmerkovskiy 'Was Gonna Die' After 'Frantic' Call as Ukraine War Began

The former Dancing with the Stars pro said that, in her husband's mind, "he's still there" in Ukraine, even after he was able to return to the U.S. from his homeland early into the Russian invasion

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd
Maks Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty

Peta Murgatroyd is speaking out about the fear she felt for her husband Maks Chmerkovskiy — and for her family — in the earliest hours of the war in Ukraine.

The former Dancing with the Stars pro, 35, sat down with her season 24 partner Nick Viall for his podcast The Viall Files this week to share what was going through her mind as she saw news of the invasion begin and called Chmerkovskiy, 42, late that first night.

Chmerkovskiy was in his home country serving as a judge on the competition series World of Dance when Russian forces launched a large-scale invasion on Ukraine on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

According to Murgatroyd, her husband was "frantic" as he packed his bags. "I don't want to be, like, so dramatic," she added, "but, like, our lives changed."

She continued, "Those eight to nine days that he was there, was like — I thought he was gonna die for sure because he couldn't get out of Kyiv. And that was the hardest thing. Those eight days were so long, tedious."

Murgatroyd explained that her husband's accommodation was "two blocks" from the parliament building, which was under siege in the Ukrainian capital: "So he was literally there in the center of Kyiv. And, you know, at times, he would say, 'Don't call me, don't call me. They have to turn the lights off, windows closed, no TV, [Russian troops are] coming.'"

Maksim Chmerkovskiy is greeted by wife Peta Murgatroyd as he Arrives at LAX after escaping from Ukraine Los Angeles, California, USA - 02 Mar 2022
London Entertainment/Shutterstock

Chmerkovskiy was eventually able to make it to neighboring Poland by train and then fly back to California, where he lives with Murgatroyd and their 5-year-old son Shai.

When the couple reunited, Murgatroyd described the scene as "insane," telling Viall, "The amount of press that were there I was actually scared."

Murgatroyd admitted her husband has struggled at times to be fully present back home in the U.S. because his heart is still with the people suffering in Ukraine.

"It changes you," she shared. "It wasn't just all hunky dory and happy family. We were dealing with a lot together — stress, anxiety."

She said, "I had to, like, literally take his phone away from him sometimes because, of course, in his mind he's still there, he's still there with his friends fighting. His friends are on the front line."

Maks Chmerkovskiy
Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Michael Loccisano/Getty

After spending a few weeks at home, Chmerkovskiy returned to the region to offer assistance on the Polish border.

He and his family — including fellow former DWTS pro brother Val Chmerkovskiy, 36 — have since started Baranova27, a charitable organization for Ukrainian humanitarian aid named after the address in Odessa where the brothers and their father were born. The GoFundMe has raised more than $336,987 since it launched on March 10.

Maks Chmerkovskiy
Maks (left) and Val Chmerkovskiy. Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

Murgatroyd also revealed to Viall, 41, that Maks "had a therapy session for the first time in his life" at her urging.

"I was like, 'You are going, and you are talking this out!" she recalled. "I don't want this to turn into something bigger."

She added, "He was like, 'Book me in. Check me in ... I'll do whatever you want me to do.'"

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

Related Articles