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Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

Anastasia Zyurkalova

Actress Anastasiia Ziurkalova started acting at the age of ten and played the main roles in high-profile Ukrainian melodramas ("Snow Love, A Winter's Night's Dream", "Women's Intuition", "To You, the Real One", "Aurora").

In an interview with OBOZ.UA, the actress, who has been living in Canada for more than two years, explained why she suddenly disappeared from the screens at the peak of her popularity, commented on rumors of a conflict with director Oksana Bairak, with whom she had worked extensively, and spoke about her current life in the country where she found temporary refuge from the war.

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

Anastasiia Ziurkalova is from Kyiv. The girl's father is an entrepreneur, and her mother is a famous gymnast, and world champion Oksana Omelianchyk. Nastia started acting in movies when she was 10 years old. The future movie star's father accidentally heard about the casting of young actresses for the melodrama "Snow Love, or A Winter's Night's Dream" by director Bairak. Nastia was chosen among hundreds of applicants. The director later cast her in the lead roles in four more of her films. The role of a girl from Pripyat in the movie "Aurora" was written specifically for Ziurkalova.

Part of the filming took place in Kyiv, and large-scale scenes of evacuation after the Chornobyl accident were shot in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region. Later, the filming process continued in Los Angeles. One of the main roles in the film was played by Hollywood actor Eric Roberts. In 2006, "Aurora" tried to compete for an Oscar in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category, but did not win.

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

And then, at the peak of her popularity, Anastasiia suddenly disappeared from the screens. Rumors circulated about the actress's conflict with the director Bairak. However, Ziurkalova denies this: "You know, my mother or grandmother sometimes send me articles about me from the Internet with all sorts of rumors. Journalists like to write things like: "Where did this girl disappear to?" And I just live my life. As for Oksana Bairak, we did not quarrel. It's just that we haven't been in touch for many years, and somehow we lost touch. However, we have never had any conflicts, not over any issues."

"I don't follow her work, what she does," adds Ziurkalova, who hasn't played a single role with Bairak, who called her her movie daughter, since "Aurora". Regarding the anti-Ukrainian stance that the director has taken after the Russian invasion, Nastia has the following thoughts: "The whole world sees what is happening to Ukraine, and everyone understands where the truth is. And when you hear about support for the aggressor country, it's strange, to say the least."

Ziurkalova explains her absence from the movie screens for some time as follows: "When I was filming a lot, I was a child, and then I started to grow up. Most of my time began to be taken up with my studies – I was always an excellent student. Later I entered the Kyiv National Linguistic University. I have always been interested in languages, and I thought that getting this education was a good choice."

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

However, two years later, she was forced to give up her studies to become a translator because her love of acting won out: "I heard that the workshop of the legendary Ukrainian teacher, People's Artist of Ukraine Mykola Rushkovskyi was being recruited. And I turned my life in that direction." She had to leave her studies at the linguistic university: "I regretted it, to be honest, because it would have been very nice to have a diploma from such a university. But even in those two years of study, I got a lot out of it, it's a good university. I wanted to continue my studies there, but I just couldn't physically do it. The Theater University is from 9 am to 10 pm, no exaggeration. You are all there."

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

Ziurkalova made her debut on the theater stage in the lead role in the production of "Antigone" by the famous director Igor Slavinskyi at the Kyiv Academic Theater Workshop "Suzirya". For some time Anastasiia was an actress in this theater. Then she had performances in other theaters (Mykola Rushkovskyi's Theater Workshop, the "Actor" Theater, and the Theater of the Young People's Theater) and acted in films.

The full-scale invasion caught Ziurkalova in the suburbs of Kyiv. "The day before, on February 23, I had a performance in the theater. Everyone was in a very anxious mood, but I didn't want to believe in bad things. And then it turned out that it was the last performance I had ever given in Kyiv... Then came February 24, a terrible day, like for everyone else. At five in the morning, I received a phone call from my father. He said: "Pack your things and come to us. We live outside the city, I live separately, but not far from my parents. I remember well the fear that just chained me up – I had never felt anything like that in my life. You can act a lot, have acting experience on similar topics, imagine what it might be like, but the reality was much more frightening."

"I remember that after the full-scale war started, for another eight months, maybe even a year, I thought I wouldn't be able to go on stage," Anastasiia continues, "because it all seemed so fake compared to the real feelings we were all experiencing. I thought that no one would be interested in acting in Ukraine for some time."

In March 2022, the actress moved to Canada: "My brother Ivan has been living here for several years. With what heart was I going? At first, I didn't even want to think about it, it was very difficult to decide. But then I packed my things in one day. I had only one suitcase in my hands, half of which was occupied by a camera – I have long been fond of photography."

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

Anastasiia now lives in Toronto: "I'm continuing my acting career, though I had to start from scratch. I found a movie agent and am writing self-tests. In the summer, I already had one theater project. Recently, I did a voiceover, a small one, but it's still acting. I earn my living by working as a waitress at Cineplex VIP, which is the largest movie theater chain in Canada. There are places where you can come, order a delicious meal, and watch a movie. This is an incredibly interesting job because I get to observe people and life here a lot. In addition, I have the opportunity to regularly watch new movies for free. This is also a plus."

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

Nastia has not been in Kyiv for more than two years: "I have seen my mother, but not my father. We only talk on video. I miss my parents very much. We used to have a tradition where I would go to their house on weekends, bake a cake, and bring them something delicious. Now I miss this kind of live communication. Because just making a phone call is one thing, and it's quite another thing to come to your parents' house, where you lived most of your life. I miss it very much, my friends and the fact that I used to do more acting. I don't know how long I will stay here. The war showed me that life can turn upside down quite unexpectedly. I never thought that one day I could pack up and go to the other side of the world, but it happened."

In Canada, Ziurkalova already has her social circle: "I have Canadian friends. I'm also incredibly happy to have found some friends here from Karpenko-Kary University. From time to time, I attend networking events organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Filmmakers' Union, which allow me to find new contacts, and it's great. And of course, I have a brother here. I don't know what I would do without him. When I first arrived, I lived with Ivan, and this year we have already moved away."

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

"My brother studied at a culinary college here," says Nastia, "and worked in various restaurants for a while. Now he is interested in other things. He went into IT, trying his hand at it. It's not easy, because you have to work several jobs. But that's the way of life in Toronto, many people do both. You have to be able to spin around here. You know, people often ask me: is this your older brother? That's the thing, he's the younger one. My parents always told him in his childhood that he should follow my example because I was older. It's like in all families. And then there was the war, and he made such an adult manly decision: to call me to his side. The first year he helped me so much – I felt incredibly supported and proud of him."

"I find it very funny to hear someone say that they are tired of the war in Ukraine while abroad," says Anastasiia, commenting on talk of a certain fatigue with the war in Ukraine in the world. "However, the further away from the epicenter of the war, the less people feel our pain – it's true. There is less concern and less front-page news. However, we cannot blame people for this. When I first moved here, I walked the streets, looked at people smiling at me, and thought: why are they so happy? They are just living their lives in a good, safe country. Do you understand? But Canada, as you know, has perhaps the largest Ukrainian diaspora, so it is one of the most active countries that continues to promote all the programs to help our country."

Talking about how she has adjusted to life abroad, Nastia admits that some things remain a "painful issue." "When I first moved, everything was complicated and not what I was used to. Even ordinary food didn't taste good. Everything tasted different. I miss our dairy products. They have it all here, but it's not the same as here. Toronto is an international city, you can find anything you want here: Asian, Indian, anything. But for Ukrainian products, you have to travel and look for them. Some stores sell our products: cheese, candy, chocolate, canned food, and even a "Kyiv" cake. However, it all takes some time to get there – it's not as fresh as in Ukraine."

Moving to Canada and working as a waitress. How Anastasiia Ziurkalova, the most successful child star ever, lives

Recalling her incredible movie success as a child, Nastia admits that she doesn't watch her films now: "It was a good experience for me to be on a movie set, to be part of a big interesting process. Later, this was one of the reasons why I decided to become an actress. It's very cool that it happened in my life, but I'm moving on. I am developing, and I even think that now, at this stage of my life, I am interested in other things besides acting. When I was younger, studying at university, I thought that acting was my whole world. And it limited me a lot as a person. Now I realize that maybe it's time to look in other directions. But I'm not giving up acting in any way, because I love it so much."

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