An Artist’s Mission: A Road Trip to Save Ukraine

By Riya Bhattacharjee
|  Monday, Mar 3, 2014  |  Updated 12:33 PM CDT
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The violence in Ukraine has spurred people in the U.S. to do something to help the victims there. An artist on tour in the South Bay, who has very close ties to the region, wants to help. NBC Bay Area's Kimberly Tere reports from San Jose with his campaign for peace.

The violence in Ukraine has spurred people in the U.S. to do something to help the victims there. An artist on tour in the South Bay, who has very close ties to the region, wants to help. NBC Bay Area's Kimberly Tere reports from San Jose with his campaign for peace.

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Viktor Kee is embarking on a road trip across America to save Ukraine.

A circus artist and juggler touring with Cirque du Soleil, Kee is an American citizen who emigrated in the 1990s from Ukraine.

As Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna show winds up in San Jose Saturday, Kee will embark on a two- week "Help Ukraine" cross-country trip to raise awareness about the situation in his former home.

“Ukraine is experiencing a big turmoil at this very moment." Kee said. "It is the worst level of civil unrest since the fall of communism ... The people of Ukraine seek freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom from corruption, freedom to elect people to represent their government. While the politics surrounding the protests are important, it is the people and their families that interest me."

Kee said he knows how lucky he is to live and work in America, where there is democracy and freedom. And he wants the same rights for his family and friends who still live in Ukraine.

"I made my career here, and I’d love my people to have the same opportunity," Kee said. "And it’s just heartbreaking to see what is going to happen, and I can’t even comprehend, and I don’t even want to think what could happen. I don’t want to go there."

Kee told NBC Bay Area that it was heartbreaking to watch the events back home.

“My mum is in Russia, my brother is in Ukraine – everything is tied together among the two countries," he said. “It’s a very bad situation right now."

Kee hopes that his tour will help raise money to help the families of the victims and the children who lost their parents during this time of unrest.

His promise: "All proceeds will personally be sent to the families in need."

"I am not a company or big organization, I’m just an artist that wants to take a step forward by raising awareness for the people of Ukraine," Kee says on his website.

Kee's first stop will be San Francisco on March 2, followed by Los Angeles on March 4.

He plans to make stops in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin (he's going to be at SXSW), Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, Washington DC and New York.

His two companions for the road trip? His 2003 Porsche 911 4S decked out in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and a friend who works at a TV station in Kiev.

Kee described his car as a “symbol" of his project.

Kee hopes to collect signatures of the people he meets on his road trip on an Ukrainian flag and then present it at the main square in Kiev.

For more information on Viktor Kee's Help Ukraine Project, click here.

NBC Bay Area's Shawn Murphy contributed to this report.

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