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Ukrainian performers face uncertainty after being laid off by Cirque du Soleil

Ukrainian Cirque performers
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 21:06:46-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — An immigration tightrope. A group of Ukrainian acrobats are stuck in limbo after being laid off from a Cirque du Soleil production.

"Every day, we work for all shows, and we never miss [work] and every day do 100 percent."

Being an acrobat is the life passion for Yevgeny Lytvyn and Igor Tomchuk. Both, along with a third performer, were set to be part of the cast for the Cirque production, Mad Apple, at New York, New York on the Strip.

"We try to be better for shows, but it's not appreciated,” Tomchuk said.

The performers say Cirque du Soleil laid them off after being given a year-long contract. All three had pooled their money to buy a car and a place to live here in the valley.

"Buy some car to go to work, and we we're ready to go [from] here,” Tomchuk said.

Now, their work visas are expiring in less than 30 days and they're worried they may have to return to Ukraine, a country in the midst of war. All are from regions close to the fighting with Tomchuk's hometown under Russian occupation in the south.

"It's scary because the situation in Ukraine right now, all of Ukraine is bombed,” Lytvyn said.

They say their meeting with Cirque management left them frustrated as they were told due to budgetary reasons, layoffs had to be made, despite the performers explaining their situation.

"They said 'Sorry, this is a business. We need to cut three actors,’” Tomchuk said.

A Cirque du Soleil spokesperson gave a one-sentence statement to 13 Action News in response saying:

"With a new production, the creation process continues well after opening which involves reworking acts and show content."

With help from a Russian translator, Tomchuk explains they turned down other opportunities in Europe, knowing the prestige of working in Las Vegas.

"There was an option to work there, but they chose America, because of more opportunities and more money,” Tomchuk said.

The performers say they have no anger towards cirque management, but wish they received a better response from the production.

"Just more support and more understanding and more appreciation because in this case as a human being, it's not the best,” Tomchuk said.

All three performers are in the process of trying to obtain special status to stay in the U.S. and find other performance work in here in Las Vegas.