“I do not want to leave Ukraine”

29.01.2024 | cb — No comments

This is the story of Manila Boss, a drag queen from Ukraine. The 28-year-old tells how she experienced the outbreak of war. Manila shares her moving journey, the moments of fear, the will to survive and the solidarity that helped her not to lose hope in the midst of the chaos. Our columnist Iryna Hanenkova met Manila and wrote down her story.

How did I get to know the war? Under the duvet. I had my premonitions about a week before the outbreak, but in the 21st century a major war seemed a long way off. I sat at home and thought that such things no longer happen today. But fate had other plans for us.

My boyfriend is a soldier and on the evening of 23 February he told me to be careful at night or something might happen to me. When my mother called at six in the morning on 24 February, I quickly realised what he had meant: “Son, the war has started. Get up, pack some documents and be ready.” My mum didn’t know what to tell me because we live in different cities.

I put the phone down and while I was still sitting on the bed, I heard the first violent explosions. The chaos began. I didn’t know what to do, where to go or where to hide. Fear overwhelmed me and I felt helpless.

Escape from the missiles

At that moment, I received a call from a friend. He told me to come to his flat, that we had to stay together. Without hesitation, I grabbed my documents and some clothes, hailed a taxi and set off. The explosions in the distance accompanied me; I didn’t know if I would arrive safely.

Surprisingly, the taxi came quickly, I drove to my friends’ house under the explosions and didn’t know if I would get there…

I lived in his shared flat for the first three weeks. Every time there was an air raid, we ran and took cover, often in the grounds of a nightclub where I used to perform. The club was underground and seemed relatively safe.

Then, when the situation in the country became clearer, I returned home alone. I found myself in a new life. The club where I had performed had closed its doors – of course.

Hope in the midst of chaos

Thank God I had and still have another job that has kept me afloat. I work for the youth organisation Partner. Our target group are LGBTIQ*.

Before the war, we carried out tests for STIs and distributed contraceptives. After the war began, we started helping internally displaced people who had fled from the nearby cities of Kherson and Mykolayiv.

We provided them with food and humanitarian aid, and we started to offer free hormone replacement therapy for trans* people. We are still doing that today…

Ukraine will triumph

I didn’t perform on stage in front of an audience for a year and a half. I didn’t know if I would ever perform again. I didn’t know if anyone needed that now. But – wonder of wonders! – recently the director of the club where I used to perform on stage called me and said: Manila, we’re working again!

From the first days of the war, I was on the territory of my country!!! And I didn’t and don’t want to leave there! I am at home!!! In Ukraine!

As I write these lines, the war continues unabated. But I firmly believe that Ukraine will win. I am proud of our Ukrainian armed forces and of our people. Everything will be fine, because in the end Ukraine will triumph.

This is how you can donate

INDIVIDUAL HELP Munich Kyiv Queer has its own fundraising campaign via to support queer people in Ukraine who are in need or on the run. Why? Because not all LGBTIQ* are organised in the local LGBTIQ*-groups. This help is direct, fast and free of charge if you choose the option “For friends and family” on PayPal. If you don’t have PayPal, you can alternatively send money to the private account of Conrad Breyer, speaker of Munich Kyiv Queer, IBAN: DE427015000021121454.

All requests from the community are meticulously checked in cooperation with our partner organisations in Ukraine. If they can help themselves, they take over. If the demands for help exceed their (financial and/or material) possibilities, we will step in.

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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