‘We did not run away’

Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community fights homophobia on the frontlines

By Katherine Berjikian  •  Updated: 19/04/2022 for ‘euronews’

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, members of the LGBTQ+ community and activists have been visibly joining and helping Ukraine’s army – with some hoping their participation will erode prejudice.

With this goal in mind, one LGBTQ+ organization even donated to Azov, a far-right group with a history of extreme homophobia before the war.

Anastasia is a Lesbian who has been volunteering on and off with the army since Russia first invaded in 2014.

While she spent five years as a civilian before the war began on February 24, she immediately volunteered to work as a drone operator as fighting broke out.

When Russian forces were originally circling the country’s capital, she worked only 20 kilometers from the frontlines around Kyiv.

“We have a problem of homophobia [in Ukraine],” she told Euronews. “And now that the war has begun, people have asked ‘where are your LGBTQ+ soldiers?’

“And here we are. We are on the front lines. We did not run away. We are not hiding. We are defending.”

Anastasia said that she personally knew 20 people on the front lines who are open about their sexual and gender identities. Ukrainepride

Activists have also been making gains in the country over the past couple of years.

For example, before the current war, organizers were trying to pass an anti-discrimination law that would criminalize hate crimes committed against someone because of their sexual orientation and gender.

“Before the war in Ukraine, we had good development for human rights for LGBTQ+ people,” said Anna Sharyhina, an organizer for KharkivPride.

“We had (our) first Pride in Kharkiv three years ago and it was dangerous and horrible. But we had a third pride last year, and it was more like a celebration.

“We had around 3,000 people on the street, and all of these people supported each other, and were smiling and dancing. And it was really like we can see some changes.”


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