It Happens Here: Popular Watertown fencing academy open to all newcomers

WATERTOWN – Vitaliy Nazarenko left his home in Ukraine back in 1999 with a backpack, $40, and one very big dream.

“To get a better life and to find a fencing job,” Nazarenko told WBZ-TV.

He has done just that, opening the Fencing Academy of Boston in Watertown 10 years ago. It’s open to children as young as six, teenagers and even seniors.

“I’ve been Vitaliy’s student for 20 years. He’s the only coach I’ve ever had,” said David Seuss, who is 71 years old and is Nazarenko’s oldest student. “I’ve won the world championship three times and the U.S. championship three times in my age group as Vitaliy’s student.”

The two have also become close friends.

“When Vitaliy became a citizen, I took him to a Red Sox game. He didn’t understand anything, but he liked the hot dogs,” Seuss said with a smile on his face.

“I teach him to love fencing more than I do. It keeps his life much longer and interesting because fencing is an interesting life,” Nazarenko added.  

Nazarenko, who learned to fence at the age of 12, has led an interesting life himself.

He graduated from the Lviv University of Physical Culture and has earned the International Master of Sport in saber fencing. Nazarenko also won Ukrainian and USSR national championships multiple times and was a member of a fencing team that won the silver medal in the European Championship. Nazarenko also served as the saber coach for the Harvard University fencing team before opening the academy in 2012. 

“When you see him teaching a youth group, they are all just having such a good time, and it’s Vitaliy’s skill as a teacher and a coach,” Seuss said.

“It’s unique, it’s fun, it’s different, it’s really exciting, it’s fast. Right now, I am ranked number five nationally. I’ll probably do it until I’m too old to do it,” fifth-year student Persephone Foss said.  

But according to Seuss, that might not be necessary.  

“I fence seven to eight hours a week. I think it has knocked 10 years off my physiological age. You can keep doing it for your entire life and enjoy the fitness benefits and the friendships that you form,” Seuss said.

Nazarenko is also welcoming Ukrainian refugees to the Academy, providing free classes to children and adults, saying he wants refugees to feel at home.  

“Fencing is my life. That’s what I love. When my life and my business comes together, it’s just perfect.”  

Anyone interested can contact Nazarenko by email to register.  

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