“Every day brings greater self-awareness”

Anastasia, a 25-year-old feminist and pansexual individual, recounts her experiences during the full-scale invasion in Lviv. Alongside her friends, she engaged in various humanitarian efforts, aiding those affected by the conflict. They navigated the challenges of fleeing to Poland and Germany, facing overcrowded trains and uncertainty. In Germany, Anastasia found a more inclusive environment compared to Ukraine, where misogyny and societal norms stifled diversity. Despite the upheaval, she observed a shift in societal attitudes towards the queer community in Ukraine. Returning home, Anastasia reflects on her journey, finding solace in her evolving identity and belief in a more inclusive future. Iryna Hanenkova collected her story.

My name is Anastasia, and I’m 25 years old, proudly identifying as a feminist and pansexual. The onset of the full-scale invasion found us in Lviv. I gathered with my three closest friends in a rented apartment, where we fashioned a makeshift bed in the corridor and barely slept for the initial 3-4 days.

Anastasiia at the Pride

Our days were filled with purpose as we rallied to aid those affected: collecting donations, assisting military personnel with shopping, and distributing soft toys to children and their mothers seeking refuge in nearby sports clubs. We also undertook the task of clearing out the basement shelter, discovering a stash of old pharmacist bottles at our entrance, which we promptly arranged to be taken to the Pharmacy Museum.

We did our best to help those we could

Not having a permanent job at the time, I dedicated myself fully to these humanitarian efforts. On March 5, my friend and I stood at the border crossing to Poland from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., enduring the cold without adequate heating, tents, toilets, or food.

Upon arrival at a large distribution camp in the evening, we finally found respite, warming ourselves and replenishing our energy. Although a Polish volunteer kindly offered us accommodation in Lublin for the night, we hesitated due to warnings about potential scams and politely declined.

On the way to Germany

Our journey was fraught with challenges, from overcrowded trains in Poland and Germany to the chaos of ticket queues where scalpers prowled. Yet, amidst the uncertainty, we pressed on. In Berlin, our spirits were lifted by the sight of German reporters welcoming us with Ukrainian flags.

Anastasiia, 25 years old. Ukrainian pansexual and feminist.

After spending a few days in the German capital, we ventured to Cologne, where, thanks to connections, we secured temporary accommodation for a week before settling into a communal-style living arrangement until in August 2022 I rented a room. My friend returned to Ukraine after a month and a half, leaving me to navigate life in a new environment alone.

Attending Pride for the first time on July 3rd was a transformative experience. The atmosphere of mutual respect, love and solidarity was awe-inspiring. In the summer of 2023, I returned to Pride as a representative of KyivPride, forging connections with amazing people and establishing a supportive community with three Ukrainian bi-girls through our joint chat.

In Germany, I found a level of openness and acceptance of diverse genders and identities that I miss in Ukraine. The pervasive misogyny and self-rejection among Ukrainian women, coupled with adherence to patriarchal norms, contrast sharply with the inclusive environment I encountered abroad.

I found my flock

Upon my return to Ukraine in the summer of 2023, I found my LGBTIQ* community relegated to online social media groups and a small circle of bisexual friends. During the full-scale invasion, I observed a shift in societal attitudes towards the queer community in Ukraine. LGBTIQ* topics are gaining visibility, and cases of violence against LGBTQ* individuals are receiving media attention, signaling a slow but significant change.

My time abroad was marred by deep depression and numerous economic and bureaucratic obstacles, culminating in the completion of my journalism diploma through distance learning. Now back in Ukraine, I’m focusing on self-discovery and contemplating seeking professional support once again.

Anastasiia at the LGBTQI+ Pride

The NGO “Feminist Workshop” in Lviv provided a vital space for me to connect with like-minded individuals until February 24th. I eagerly anticipate rejoining their events ever since.

My European experience led to a personal revelation, evolving my identity from bisexuality to pansexuality. Each day brings greater self-awareness and acceptance as societal norms evolve, reinforcing my belief in a vibrant and inclusive Ukraine where everyone finds their rightful place.

This is how you can donate


INDIVIDUAL HELP Munich Kyiv Queer has its own fundraising campaign via https://www.paypal.me/ConradBreyer 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

Questions? www.MunichKyivQueer.org/donations

Petro Zherukha, a 27-year-old cisgender bisexual soldier, shares his journey amidst the chaos of war. Despite the dangers, Petro bravely confronts his identity, proudly displaying an LGBTIQ* chevron on his uniform to challenge discrimination and seek acceptance within the ranks. His story exemplifies resilience in the face of adversity. Our columnist Iryna Hanenkova has put down his story.

From the first days of the invasion, I joined the military. At these critical moments, everything seemed to lose its meaning, except for victory, which was directly associated with the future. For a moment, there was a feeling that there would be no future because we and our memories were being slaughtered. But it turned out that love for everything and faith were and will be stronger than any fear of death.

In the army, I serve in the supply unit and deal with everything related to transport. My military unit entered the front line quickly, so every second of doubt or lack of knowledge could become the end of us. Our logistics team worked almost around the clock. We debated whether to take cover during alarms or the sounds of explosions. We decided that we would work until the very last. If a missile hits the building where we work and we die, then so be it. And if not – it will explode somewhere nearby, then there is nothing to worry about, and therefore, all the more to continue our work. We could not afford any delays at work because it directly affected the provision for our fighters in positions.

My coming out was not related to the army, although I felt a direct threat to my life because the army was not the safest environment for me or anyone in general. My friend, who was directly involved in the creation of the draft law on registered partnerships, inspired me. The military system, on the contrary, systematically oppressed me.

Serving in the army is a quite challenging task. If you serve faithfully, that is. We wanted to strive to be good soldiers and dedicated all our energy, comfort, principles, personal space, funds, skills, knowledge, and even some fundamental human rights just to bring victory closer to us. We knew this system would never thank us so we accepted the fact that we would be anonymous benefactors, giving it everything we had to win this war.

I fought and still fight against the military system for my personality and my identity. I saw people lose parts of themselves, and their personalities, both in the army and at the front. I noticed that I also felt different and lost something of who I was before the army.

When I shared with my friends the idea that I might want to come out only to our group – they rejected me. I’m sure that’s because of the fear of the unknown. After the victory – they said, “not in time” – a golden saying that, sort to speak, so clearly describes the diagnosis of our society: to decide to postpone the desire to be happy right now. And I obeyed.

But when I found out about everything that my friend did for me and people like me in the army, I decided not to suppress my personality anymore, to stop being afraid of reactions, and openly talk about discrimination if it happens. And I opened up, perhaps, among the most conservative people and in the most dangerous conditions imaginable. As you understand, this happened in a war zone between brothers and sisters who have been fighting for more than a year; who are tired, exhausted, wounded, lost, and with weapons in their hands. My superiors were afraid that I might get shot. I didn’t believe it.

When I attached a chevron with an LGBTIQ* flag to my uniform, I was regularly “advised” to take it off, and I believe that someone was simply afraid of aggression towards me. Someone was uncomfortable, someone discriminated against me passively, and someone thought that I was discriminating against them.

However, I accepted it – I am uncomfortable for many, incomprehensible, new for perception, so it takes more effort to accept me. That’s why I serve with an LGBTIQ* chevron so that my military accepts me for who I am and forms boundaries and relationships with the real me. I want to brag about the fact that I am successful in this and feel that in this way I choose to strive to be happy right now.

This is how you can donate


INDIVIDUAL HELP Munich Kyiv Queer has its own fundraising campaign via https://www.paypal.me/ConradBreyer 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

Questions? www.MunichKyivQueer.org/donations

Diana, a 24-year-old lesbian working at a pharmacy, recounts the onset of a full-scale invasion in her city. What begins as a routine day quickly spirals into chaos as panicked crowds flood the store, stocking up on supplies amidst the uncertainty of war. Amidst the frenzy, Diana’s initial disbelief gives way to grim acceptance as she grapples with the reality of the situation.

As the conflict escalates, Diana finds herself navigating the tumultuous landscape with a strange calmness, while still grappling with the profound sadness and existential numbness brought on by the violence. Her story reflects the resilience and inner turmoil experienced by many caught in the throes of war. Our columnist Iryna Hanenkova has put down her story.

The first day of the full-scale invasion began like any other: I woke up, prepared for work at the pharmacy, calmly drove in, and awaited customers. Typically, the mornings were slow, with few visitors until around ten o’clock. I wasn’t part of any messenger newsgroups and avoided reading the news on principle.

So, as I began my workday, the sudden influx of people at eight in the morning struck me as odd. ‘Perhaps just some early customers,’ I thought. Yet, as the day progressed, the line grew longer, and panic buying of bandages and iodine ensued, leaving me bewildered.

Diana

By midday, the line extended onto the road, and a significant portion of our stock had been depleted. My phone buzzed incessantly with calls and texts from concerned relatives and friends, but I was too occupied to respond, rushing to fulfill orders amidst the chaos.

Chaos around me

Around five in the evening, a calm man stood before me, a stark contrast to the frantic crowd and myself. ‘Take a moment, catch your breath,’ he advised. ‘You’re overexerting yourself. You’ll faint if you don’t slow down.’ Grateful for the respite, I inquired about the sudden surge in customers. ‘The war has begun,’ he calmly informed me. I couldn’t comprehend his words. How could it be? Everything seemed normal. By day’s end, the pharmacy was nearly empty, affording me a brief moment to hydrate and eat as the reality of the situation slowly sank in.

You are coming with us

A call from my best friend shattered any illusions of normalcy:

– ‘Where are you? Why didn’t you pick up?’
– ‘I’m at work. Can you believe how busy it is? And someone said, “The war has begun!”‘ I chuckled nervously.
– ‘The russians attacked! We’re leaving. Come with us! I won’t leave you behind!’

It dawned on me that this was no jest. ‘Where are you going? I can’t abandon my responsibilities here, or my parents,’ I protested.

– ‘You’re coming with us! I can’t bear the thought of leaving you behind. We don’t know what’s coming. Kyiv is under attack, tanks are advancing!’
– ‘I won’t leave, but please take care of yourself.’

Diana

Subsequently, I caught up on the news and slowly accepted the grim reality. The days that followed were routine – home, work, home – until the distant explosions in Lviv brought the war closer to home. Yet, amidst the turmoil, a strange calm settled within me. It’s as if my mind reverted to a childlike curiosity, finding fascination in the chaos, overshadowing the adult fears of tomorrow’s uncertainties and deaths.

I mourn for those sacrificing their lives for our freedom, yet the war has numbed me to death’s inevitability. Perhaps it’s exacerbated by the lingering depression from a painful breakup. Left alone, I’ve grown indifferent to my own possible demise. The constant drone of explosions outside my window has normalized death to me.

Nothing will be ever the same

There’s a profound sadness for our nation and its people, yet despair has given way to a numbing acceptance. The war has transformed us all, though not everyone wears their suffering outwardly. At times, waves of despair and anxiety grip me, a visceral pain that transcends mere words. It’s a pain for our land, our people, and the decay of the world around us.

Deep down, there’s a flicker of hope that we’ll emerge victorious, that the bloodshed will cease. But the trauma-induced calm whispers that nothing will ever be the same, regardless of the war’s outcome.

This is how you can donate


INDIVIDUAL HELP Munich Kyiv Queer has its own fundraising campaign via https://www.paypal.me/ConradBreyer 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

Questions? www.MunichKyivQueer.org/donations