Ukraine’s LGBT+ community needs our support now more than ever. Here’s how you can help save lives
Lenny Emson, director of Ukraine LGBT+ group Kyiv Pride, is almost moved to tears when he mentions the massacre at Bucha that shocked the world just days ago.
Over the weekend, photos of dead bodies littered on the streets of Bucha near Kyiv were circulated online. Some had their hands tied behind their backs, while dozens more were buried in mass graves. It is thought that at least 400 people were killed in the town by Russian forces.
The Bucha massacre has been described as a “game changer” in the war, while Russian forces have been accused of carrying out “terrible” war crimes. According to local reports, some of the victims were raped.
“The situation is terrifying, but I can’t even talk about it because I’m going to cry,” Lenny tells PinkNews. “I had my tears when we received those pictures from Bucha. It’s 10 kilometres from where we are. When you realise that this danger, this fascism, is so close to you, it’s terrifying. I know many people who live in this area and I’m just really scared of finding out that somebody who I know was killed or raped there.”
It’s been six weeks since news broke that Russia had launched a full-scale invasion in Ukraine. In that time, more than 20,000 have died and four million have fled, according to Ukrainian officials. Russia shows no signs of slowing or stopping its siege.
That’s why PinkNews is launching the LGBTQ+ Refugees Welcome campaign. We’re asking our readers to donate whatever they can to help the LGBT+ community survive and get access to life-saving help through a turbulent, traumatic time.
The LGBTQ+ Refugees Welcome campaign will benefit two charities – through GiveOut, we will donate funds directly to OutRight Action International’s LGBTIQ Ukraine Emergency Fund, which is helping those working on the ground to get vital supplies such as food, water and medication to LGBT+ Ukrainians.
The second beneficiary is Micro Rainbow, a UK-based charity that provides safe housing to LGBT+ asylum seekers and refugees. It also provides food, bedding, clothing and extra support to queer people who are seeking refuge.
LGBT+ Ukrainians need specific, targeted support
Donating funds to help the community survive is vital right now. Lenny and his colleagues have been working around the clock over the last few weeks to make sure LGBT+ people in Kyiv have access to food, shelter and medication.
“I personally drive the car when we’re delivering food and medications around the city and we see all these ruined houses, we see these people living in apartments with no windows because of the shelling. People are freezing, it’s a very cold spring in Kyiv,” he says.
Kyiv Pride is also working on opening a shelter for queer people who need emergency accommodation. Many have been evacuated from surrounding areas and are struggling to find a safe, secure place to stay. Lenny and his colleagues are currently waiting on supplies to arrive – they’ve already received some sleeping bags but they need more.
“We’re getting ready for the worst. We’re stocking supplies and we’re collecting funds to buy basic food for people. Our partner organisation, Gay Alliance Ukraine, we’re working with them on delivering food to LGBTQI people and medications. They’re not easy to find right now and they’re very expensive so we’re buying those for LGBTQI and we’re trying to help as many people as we can.”
Right now, Lenny is focused on keeping his community alive and safe. In addition to providing food and medication, Kyiv Pride has a team of volunteer psychologists who are supporting members of their community.
“All of the donations we receive, they go to this. They go to the LGBTQI+ community in need,” Lenny says.
It’s very important for us to keep helping these people and provide them with a safe space, physically and psychologically.
“Sometimes we get very strange messages on Facebook and other social media, some people will ask, ‘Is it important to help LGBT+ [people]? What’s the difference right now if you’re LGBT+ or not?’ We always say, yes it is important because it is our community – we need to take care of our people.
“Today I received a request from a girl who needs shelter in Kyiv because she cannot stay with her family, they are rejecting her after she came out. She has nowhere to go, she was evacuated with her family from the village near Kyiv, and now she is locked in this situation where she’s getting bullied in her own family and she’s in danger and has no means for food. This is the typical example of the person we’re helping. It’s very important for us to keep helping these people and provide them with a safe space, physically and psychologically.”
LGBT+ people in Ukraine fear they will be ‘exterminated’ by Russia
Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February, PinkNews has spoken to numerous LGBT+ people in Ukraine about what the impact has been on their daily lives.
Andriy Maymulakhin, who serves as head of the Nash Mir Centre, an LGBT+ rights organisation, said in March that Russian forces could try to “exterminate” queer Ukrainians.
“It is hard to imagine that we will have to come to terms with the so-called ‘Russian world’, its laws and morality, which are aimed against LGBT+ people,” he said in an email. “It is very likely that LGBT+ activists will end up on the lists for concentration camps or extermination.”
Vira Chernygina, president of lesbian organisation WA Sphere, told PinkNews that staying in Ukraine comes with its own set of worries.
“It is dangerous for us as activists. On the second day, we realised that we should stay in Ukraine and make LGBT+ rights a priority because the war will finish… it doesn’t matter what orientation you have, we have to save our country. We have one goal – we have to win.”
Right now, Ukraine’s LGBT+ community is trying to focus on the future – to imagine a brighter, better world for their community. But they can only make that a reality if the world rows in behind them, offering their support and financial assistance wherever possible.
Please donate what you can to the LGBTQ+ Refugees Welcome campaign by visiting our GoFundMe page.