In the face of the ennemy. Chronicle from Zhytomyr

28.03.2022 | cb — No comments

The problems faced by LGBTIQ* people in Eastern Europe have often been the subject of Western media coverage over the past decade. This includes the lack of equal rights, acts of violence, self-rejection and psychological issues that inevitably cause social problems – work difficulties, financial issues, limited social contacts.

The work of non-governmental organizations is perhaps the only, yet effective way to advocate for the rights of vulnerable groups.The LGBTIQ* organization „You Are Not Alone“ led by Alexandra was founded in 2010, revived after a long pause in December 2021, and always has been actively involved in the development of the LGBTIQ*-community in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr before the Russian aggression sparked.

With the Russian invasion, the organization has been forced to make major adjustments, focusing on charitable assistance to LGBTIQ* people affected by the war who have low or no income and are in trouble meeting basic needs such as food, medicine, and necessities, or who consider to flee to safer regions.

Stories of sadness and warmth

The international support turned out to be highly positive – important donors responded quickly, agreeing to cooperate and provide funding, resulting in hundreds of food kits purchased and transferred, medication, and of course personal money.

Receiving help they didn’t even expect, people write letters of thanks, but not everyone wants to openly publish their faces and names. We publish a series of stories of people changing their names. In these you will find a lot of sadness, but still a lot of warmth, hope for a peaceful sky and desire to live and be who they are.

Valentin, gay, psychologist, Zhytomyr

When bombs started falling near Zhytomyr on the night of February 24, many people had to leave. Valentin was evacuated to Dovbysh after three days from the start of the war, and there he faced a lack of food and medicine.

There was simply no way to buy anything in the stores. Our organization “You’re not alone” bought here in Zhytomyr everything he needed and sent it all to him.

Frankly, when we sent him a parcel by our mail service, we were really not sure if it would ever reach him, but thanks to God it did. We still continue to help Valentin and his family to survive in such difficult living conditions.

Marta & Olya, a lesbian couple, together for 6 years, they have two children, 2 and 18 years old, Bila Tserkva

Marta and Olya live in Bila Tserkva and have two children. The girls have lost their jobs and are renting an apartment. They have no money to pay their rent, nor the utilities. It is very hard to survive in such conditions with a small child. There are constant battles and shootings near the city.

Our organization helps with money, which girls use to buy food, medicines, necessities for living and sleeping. Recently, thanks to help from Germany, Marta, the mother of the child, bought a small tent, in which the little princess sits safely and does not hear the siren blasts and gunfire. The baby needs special food, which is hard to find.

We helped with gasoline, so Marta could drive around the town looking for the right food for her little girl. We also helped with utilities and rent so the family wouldn’t be kicked out on the street. The apartment was starting to have problems with the walls, Marta bought everything she needed to do some repairs, since the baby can’t live in such conditions.

Recently, Olga, Martha’s beloved, made the decision to go to Poland to earn some money. We helped Olga with money, she bought the necessary things and food and went abroad to help her family somehow. Maybe in the future Olga will take the entire family to her new place. We continue to help the family and keep an eye on things.

Oleg, gay. The town of Vasilkov, Kyiv region

Oleg’s town is bombed almost every day. He is left there all alone. Oleg, 48, does not communicate with his relatives, they do not accept his sexual orientation, some of them live abroad, Oleg has no Ukrainian citizenship, only a residence permit.

Several years ago, Oleg was diagnosed with cancer, he was successfully treated, but he is afraid that the stress he has undergone may cause a relapse. Our organization helped Oleg to buy food, medicines, necessary household and sleeping items. We constantly try to keep in touch, to help him financially and morally.

Tanya, a lesbian, her mother and two children, Mariupol

The family no longer has an apartment, it was completely burned by Russian air strikes. She hasn’t been online since 2nd of March. On 23rd Tanya wrote to Alexandra Semenova that she was sitting in a bomb shelter and there might be an evacuation today, her mother and two children were with her, her father was missing.

Tanya and her family were evacuated to Berdyansk. She told me over the phone that when they were sleeping, shelling of their house began, Tanya and her children and mother ran out into the street in what they were sleeping in, with no documents or money, they just didn’t have time to take anything.

The next day Tanya ran to see what had happened to their apartment. She ran towards her apartment so as to at least find documents, and saw her neighbors‘ corpses lying there. She didn’t find anything, so she went back to the bomb shelter.

Our organization helped Tanya with money through transfer on a card so that she was able to buy clothes, food, medicine, and for the evacuation purpose. Now Tanya and her family are safe and have come to Switzerland to live with their relatives.

Victor, gay, 62 years old, Chernihiv

Chernihiv is almost like Mariupol, under constant bombshell. In some districts gas, heat, electricity & water are totally missing.

People can still buy food using their cards somehow, but they are oftenly shot even in the bread lines.

Victor could have left in the first days of the war, since his age allows him to, but he could not evacuate his almost 90-year-old mother, and now he is with her in this hell. This is what we learned from a stingy correspondence with the man from Chernihiv.

By the way, from March 10 through 21 he did not get in touch and we were very worried. We helped Victor and his mom with medicines, food and everything we needed. As of now, there is an evacuation challenge, so we keep in touch.

Lyudmila, a lesbian, her daughter, and two grandchildren. Ovruch, Zhytomyr region

Lyudmila and her relatives have been staying in a basement from February 25 to March 12. The children were mentally exhausted and depressed. They could not sleep at night.

On 13 March, Lyudmila contacted us and asked for help. Since that date it became a little calmer in the town, groceries and pharmacies reopened. We helped with the money, so Lyudmila could buy some food and medicines for two weeks. On March 24th our organization helped Lyudmila and her family to evacuate to Poland. They are safe now.

Novograd Volynsky. 19 people, including 12 gays, 4 lesbians, 3 straight persons

Alexander messaged us asking financial aid for food, medications and gasoline to prepare for the evacuation. They lived in a single house for a week (19 people), sleeping on the floor, hiding in the basement when there was a siren.

We helped with money, they bought food, medicine, mattresses, gasoline for 3 cars in case of evacuation. They were crying and thankful for our help. On 28th of March, four girls were evacuated to Poland, eight people went to a safe place, rented a house. We provided them with food and things of necessity.

The others are staying near Novograd Volynsk, they are provided with medicines and food. We keep in touch with everyone and help them all the time.

Vadim and Andrey. Gay couple, Kyiv, used to live in Zhytomyr

Our organization began to help them back in the early days of war, when there was a blockade in Kyiv and no food was delivered there for two days. The guys didn’t have any supplies, they just couldn’t believe that war and hunger could happen.

They shared the next aid tranche with a lesbian friend who also needed food. Life in Kyiv was becoming unbearable and they decided to go to Kropivnitsky, but even from there they received very bad news. We try to help with food and whatever is needed.

Ira, Masha, a couple, and their three children. Zhytomyr

From the first days of the war, they moved to a house, 15 km from Zhytomyr. They were left without food and everything they needed. We organized the delivery of food and medicine to them.

For about two weeks the couple and their children lived there, we constantly helped them with everything they needed. When the bombing of Zhytomyr’s outskirts began, they decided to go to their relatives in the Lviv region.

We bought everything they needed, found transportation, gave them financial help to evacuate them to a safe place. The family is safe now.

Alyona, Oksana, Valya, Sasha, two pairs of lesbians

Girls from Chernihiv, they came to Zhytomyr recently and asked to stay here for at least a month, to rest and bring themselves to their senses. For almost a whole month they lived in an old house 10 km away from Chernihiv, where there was no heating and the electricity was periodically switched off.

Airplanes were constantly bombing and flying near the house. All this time we tried to help them, even when there was a problem with delivery.

Yesterday we rented an apartment and bought the girls everything they needed: food, clothes, household and sleeping items, medications. The girls will recover a little and are planning to evacuate to Poland. We are really happy when we manage to get people out of such a hell.

The happy ending

There are actually hundreds of such stories, and we will share them every week. For our part, we sincerely thank you all for your systematic financial assistance, cooperation and quick responding to the needs of the Zhytomyr and Ukrainian LGBTIQ* communities.

Without you, we would hardly have heard these stories with a happy ending!

Comments are closed.