“They knocked my tooth out”

02.08.2023 | cb — No comments

Lera, a young trans* person from Ukraine, had to experience how Russia attacked her hometown Oleshki near Kherson. That was a year ago. Since then she divides her life into “before the war” and “after the war”. Today she lives in Berlin. This is Lera’s story.

Before the war, I had a simple life. I worked, sometimes met with friends in Kyiv and enjoyed the small pleasures of everyday life. I come from the town of Oleshki on the left bank of the Kherson region which is occupied by Russia to this day.

On the night of February 24, all that changed iat once. A phone call from acquaintances who live near the border with Crimea jolted me out of sleep: “It’s war!” they said. It seemed surreal, and yet I immediately began to pack an emergency bag.

Until the summer I hid at home

The fighting started only a few kilometers from my house. Around 12 noon I heard them on the Antonivka Bridge. The whole house was shaking: I didn’t know which gods to pray to so that all this would stop. I felt as if the world was descending into chaos. In a way, it did.

In the days of the apocalypse, I tried my best to help others. I baked bread, distributed it, cooked food and shared it. My stove heating enabled me to do at least that. But I hardly dared to leave the house.

When the situation had calmed down somewhat in the summer, I ventured outside. But the danger was not over: I encountered orcs (Russian soldiers; editor’s note) four times. Two of them harassed me and almost forced me into a car. Once they beat me up because someone in my town said I was trans*. They knocked out one of my teeth with a rifle butt.

They took away our food

After that, I only went out on my bike. Or I didn’t go out of the house at all. One day they came with an automatic rifle and demanded that I give them water. One of them shouted to a comrade that I was a girl and put the rifle away. I fainted from fright. My mother came out and gave them everything they asked for. They took the last of the food and all the water.

Then came the day when the freaks blew up the dam. I hoped the water would not reach us, but it was there the very next day. I feared for our house, the whole area. The water rose quickly, overnight it was up to my chest, to about 1.40 meters.

The soldiers showed little interest in rescuing those who did not have Russian passports. The local population did more to help the victims than the Russian soldiers.

Insha helped me escape

Then I turned to the LGBTIQ* organization “Insha” and asked for help: they gave me money for the escape. We fled via Crimea, were detained at the checkpoint in Armyansk for seven hours in the heat without water or food. They questioned us and forced us to sign papers that we supported Russia’s “special operation”, that is, the war, but it was not true. We had no other choice, only with difficulty we got across the border.

I went to Simferopol, moved into a dormitory with my mother. It was very scary to even talk on the phone. They could have listened to everything.

We moved on to Voronezh, we were there for a few days. Just on the day when we had to move on, Prigozhin marched on Moscow. Thank God, at some point we reached the Latvian border.

There we were detained again for ten hours, and even forced to undress. The Russians wanted to see my tattoos. I had to stick out my belly so they wouldn’t notice my breasts right away. I was already afraid that the bus would leave without me.

But then they stamped my passport and I crossed the border with tears in my eyes. The first night my mother and I spent in Daugavpils. The journey was very hard. Then we went to Estonia and on to Berlin.

This is how you can donate

INDIVIDUAL HELP Munich Kyiv Queer has its own fundraising campaign via to support people in Ukraine who need help and are not organised in the local LGBTIQ*-groups. We can help fast, directly and unbureaucratically.

HELP FOR LGBTIQ* ORGANISATIONS To support LGBTIQ* in Ukraine we have helped set up the Alliance Queer Emergency Aid Ukraine, in which around 40 German LGBTIQ* Human Rights organisations are involved. All these groups have access to very different Human Rights organisations in Ukraine and use funds for urgently needed care or evacuation of queer people. Every donation helps and is used 100 percent to benefit queer people in Ukraine. Donate here


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