How Peta Murgatroyd Has Healed Since Husband Maks Chmerkovskiy Was Trapped in Ukraine

On the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion, Dancing With the Stars two-time mirror ball trophy winner Peta Murgatroyd says life has come full circle: "We are very lucky he got out."

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After 14 seasons on Dancing with the Stars, Peta Murgatroyd knows how a thing or two about pressure and endurance—but coping with stress took on a new meaning in February 2022 when Murgatroyd’s husband, fellow Dancing pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy, found himself in Ukraine during the Russian invasion while he’d been starring on a TV dance competition in his native country.

The outcome seemed uncertain for nearly anyone who followed Chmerkovskiy’s live Instagram posts from the ground…but today, life looks much different. Murgatroyd, 36, and Chmerkovskiy, 43, are preparing to welcome their second child, while Murgatroyd has celebrated recent awards for her skincare brand, Peta Jane Beauty. Today, as Maks stays committed to relief efforts in Ukraine, Murgatroyd says family and self-care are central to the couple.

On the one-year anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine, The Healthy @Reader’s Digest spoke with Murgatroyd about how focusing on wellness has helped her, Maks, and son Shai through an intensely emotional year.

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Peta Murgatroyd and familyJon Kopaloff/getty images

Peta Murgatroyd on Peta Jane Beauty

The Healthy @Reader’s Digest: One aspect we love about your brand and specifically your self-tanning products is the ability to get an authentic-looking tan without the skin cancer risk! Why were you personally passionate about launching the brand?

Peta Murgatroyd: Well, for starters, I feel like I’m a self-tan kind of connoisseur because I have been doing it since I was 15 years old when I started in the ballroom dancing industry. And honestly, I couldn’t find a tan that was great for the big screen and onstage and also great for walking out in public and daylight. So we’ve done that, and it is such a beautiful golden bronze color. We’ve taken out all the orange tones and we’ve really made it accessible for the general public to get the perfect tan.

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The Healthy: It had to take courage to step into the beauty industry. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?

Peta Murgatroyd: I was much younger when I embarked on this journey, and where my company is today is leaps and bounds from when we started. I didn’t have the confidence in myself when I started. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I really needed to back myself more than I ever did before. I always say just listen to your intuition and whatever comes up first in your mind and in your gut is usually the right decision to make. And I feel like I learned that along the way. 

My name is on the bottle, so I did not want to put a product out there that didn’t do what it says it was gonna do. And so that was our biggest mission. It took a while, but now I think we have created the perfect tanning solution.

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Peta Murgatroyd on her family’s experience with the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Healthy: We know at this time last year your family was going through an incredibly stressful time when your husband was visiting his home country of Ukraine during Russia’s invasion. Would you be comfortable discussing that a little bit?

Peta Murgatroyd: Yeah. It is the one-year anniversary and it’s bittersweet, because I can’t believe it’s been a year. I just cannot believe that number. I can’t believe it’s still going on. When I think back to a year ago, I’m sitting in the position that I was watching the TV, flicking through all the news channels. And it brings up horrible feelings. It brings up immense sadness, immense stress. It was one of the most stressful times in our lives. It was the worst nine, 10 days of my life. Obviously my husband, we are very lucky he got out.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Peta MurgatroydAxelle/Bauer-Griffin/GETTY IMAGES

The amount of people that this war has devastated in Ukraine is just unimaginable. I mean, they’re literally rebuilding cities. I take my hat off to everybody who has picked up firearms and gone out there. And we know a lot of people that do not do that for a living, they’re hosts, they’re TV personalities, and they’re out there fighting for their country. So it’s also a proud day today for sure.

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The Healthy: I think a lot of people have been struggling with how to cope with these devastating world events, but you were especially up-close. Can you talk a little bit about how you got through what was obviously a very emotional and stressful time?

Peta Murgatroyd: Yeah, I think it comes in waves. You know, obviously when Maks first came home, it was just diabolical mentally for both of us. I had to navigate through his emotions, and he immediately wanted to go back. It was a terrible struggle for both of us because I didn’t want him to go back, obviously. There were many things that he felt compelled to do and felt like he needed to do, and he eventually did go back.

But I think it’s the mental struggles that we had to get through which were the hardest. You lean on family, you do a little bit of therapy, you talk to people, you go for long walks on the beach. We live in Malibu, so that definitely helped. I think that sense of calm driving down Pacific Coast Highway, seeing the sunsetsthat might sound ridiculous, but honestly, it does calm you. But I must say it was a very difficult time for us. I wanted to be there for him. He obviously endured half of what others have endured, but he did see things and it was something that we had to work on.

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Peta Murgatroyd on her second pregnancy

The Healthy: We’re of course so glad that Maks made it home, and that together you’re looking forward to a new baby in June. How are you doing? Are there any daily practices you’re following to take care of yourself at this time?

Peta Murgatroyd: It’s different. I gotta say the second-round pregnancy—I already have one child, so it’s just different in the fact that like, I don’t belong to myself still. As a mom of a six-year-old, I don’t have the luxury to go sit on the couch every morning and just chill, watch TV, what I used to do in the other pregnancy. It’s very different now and I really do have to schedule time for myself. Like today I’m going to get a lymphatic drainage massage, you know, and that is something I haven’t done for months, but I made the time and effort to go. I’m making the time to go and do those things because I know that Mum needs them as well.

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