The Amazing Bilak Brothers
Celebrity Cruises showcases its talented performers and supports Ukraine.
As anyone who knows me knows, I am an inveterate cruiser, the kind of cruising done on a ship at sea. For years I have taken an annual transatlantic cruise on Celebrity. I have traveled on many of their ships including Silhouette, EDGE, APEX, and this year on October 30th will be on the BEYOND out of Rome.
Part of the fun for me, when on a ship for two weeks, is having the opportunity to meet some of the incredible entertainers. Two years ago, while on a transatlantic cruise on Celebrity APEX, I had the pleasure of meeting brothers, Andrii & Mykhailo Bilak. They are amazing performers who do a Cirque du Soleil type act, as good, or better, than I have ever seen in a Cirque du Soleil show; and they were performing on a rolling ship. They were part of the exciting shows in both the Club and Eden lounge.
I would go to the gym most mornings on sea days, and would always see one of them working out. I started a conversation and learned more about them, and their story. They told me a little bit about Ukraine and their home in Kharkiv. They are as nice and charming, as they are talented. I tried to keep in touch when they got back to Ukraine, and then the Russians invaded while they were home. I reached out to Andrii during the time they were living with their family in Kharkiv. He later told me the city was being bombed incessantly. He and his brother ended up being in Ukraine during the first eight months of the war. They said they were trying to keep up with their rehearsals, and workouts, sometimes in a basement or bomb shelter. At the same time, they were volunteering in the war effort and witnessed many terrorist acts committed by the Russians. Andrii told me “On the third day of the war, the Russians dropped a vacuum bomb next to my parent’s house. Luckily, we survived. The building next to ours was not as lucky and was destroyed. While ours wasn’t, our apartment was damaged. The civilian districts in Kharkiv were under constant shelling every day, every hour. This continued until Ukraine got help from other countries, including sophisticated air defense systems. Those systems helped to stop the constant Russian bombing which was killing civilians every day.” Andrii added, “Today, our family, including my mother, father, sister and her two daughters, are still living in Kharkiv. While missile attacks continue almost every day, they don’t want to leave what is their home and I understand that.” It must make all of us think about what we would do in such a situation. We must recognize the courage of people like the Bilak family, who refuse to abandon their homes, and country, to the Russians.
I asked Andrii what those of us who want to support his family, and all of Ukraine, can do. He told me while he and his brother were still in Kharkiv they created a charity with their friends, dedicated to helping the elderly, people with disabilities, and even pets, to get the medicine and food they needed to survive. You can click on this link charity to see some of the work they have done. Now the brothers are out of Ukraine, but their friends are still actively running the charity. He told me “Those heroes are helping not only people in the Kharkiv region, they are now visiting the Donetsk region and Kherson.” If you would like to donate to their charity, and I urge you to consider it, you can do so by reaching out with PayPal to email@example.com.
One of the things people may not know about Celebrity Cruises is how they support their crews, many who come from Ukraine. If their families managed to get out, Celebrity would allow them to live on the ship with them. When Andrii and his brother finally could get out, they were immediately welcomed back by Celebrity. To add to this wonderful story, Andrii has since brought his girlfriend, who he was living with in Kharkiv, to join him and they were married by the Captain of the APEX. Celebrity then gave her a job. Another reason to love Celebrity.
Today the Bilak Brothers are working in the Celebrity Entertainment Studio, in Miami. They are creating a series of shows which will be part of the inaugural entertainment on the new Celebrity ASCENT, being launched at the end of 2023. It is anticipated ASCENT will have their first passengers onboard to cruise in December. You can book your cruise now through my friends at My Lux Cruise, owned by Scott Moster and his husband Dustin Ruffatto. ASCENT is the fourth in the Celebrity Edge series of ships. My first chance to cruise on ASCENT will be October 26, 2024 when I join it for a transatlantic cruise out of Barcelona. I am envious of those who will be cruising on ASCENT for its first few months because they will get the opportunity to enjoy the amazing Bilak Brothers.
To see some more pictures and learn a little more about them and their work, just clink on their Instagram account, or their website. The brothers continue to support their fellow countryman through their charity and have suggested people can also contribute to any registered charities like the Red Cross or José Andrés, World Central Kitchen, which is now serving meals in hard hit Ukrainian cities. Andrii also told me one can help the Ukrainian army by donating directly to the Ukrainian government here.