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World Sword Swallower’s Day was celebrated at Ripley’s Odditoriums around the globe.
Six sword swallowers participated in New York City: Harley Newman, James Stilianos,
Nicholas Penney, Veruschka, Todd Robbins and Riley Schillaci.
Also pictured is Robbins’ son, Finn, who celebrated with a foam sword.

Ask professional sword swallowers about the dangers of their art, and they’ll tell you their lives are at risk with every swig of steel. But for some, the perilous stunt is what helps life go on. Natasha Veruschka — a New York City belly dancer and sword swallower. For her, the ancient art has proved therapeutic since the passing of her husband, Terrance Shands-Galloway, in November.

The couple had been married for 22 years. He was also her manager throughout her 10-year career.

Shands-Galloway and Veruschka had recently taken a trip to Rome, where she performed on the Guinness World Records show and claimed three new titles for swallowing a 29½-inch sword, while simultaneously swallowing 14 22-inch swords and swallowing a 24-inch sword filled with poisonous neon.

“It was over the bloody top,” Veruschka said.

During that trip, Shands-Galloway contracted a parasite. According to Veruschka, he felt great pains in his side by the time they returned to New York City, but did not rush to the hospital.

When he finally did check himself in, he stayed for more than two weeks before losing his battle with the bug at the age of 54.

“It was horrible. After he died I lay on his body for an hour and a half,” Veruschka told AOL News. “I had a show that night but I couldn’t get out of it. I was under contract. But I knew if I didn’t get up on that bloody stage, I would never, never, never again perform.”

Now, performing is what keeps her going — despite an enhanced level of danger.

“It’s easy for me to think about my husband and slip,” she said. “And one slip and I’m dead.”

On Saturday afternoon she participated in the fifth annual World Sword Swallower’s Day at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Times Square Odditorium in New York City. The day was established to raise awareness of the contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science and to correct myths that the stunt is faked.

“I loved it,” she said afterward. “I came out today for this, it was wonderful. It makes me know I’m alive. One of the doctors said I’m dying of grief. They wanted to hospitalize me and I said I’ll go in on Monday after this event.”

Veruschka, who only stands 5 feet 3 inches, has dropped to 94 pounds during her mourning period and said doctors wanted to treat her for a lack of blood. “I’m totally anemic,” she said, as she held her cold hand out for me to touch.

Veruschka was joined by five other sword swallowers at the Times Square location and 16 more in eight other Ripley’s Odditoriums around the world.