„These people have written history!“
In her laudatory speech, Oleksandra Bienert from the Alliance of Ukrainian Organisations paid tribute to the work of our organisation over the past few years. We are priveliged to be able to publish the whole of her speech here.
To see each other, to really accept each other. To remove borders. To understand each other. To cope with what is really happening. To make visible the work of people whose work would normally remain invisible.
To be able to look people in the eyes, build partnerships with people. To be able to build a sustainable relationship that has already lasted decades. All this belongs to the contact group of the Munich Kyiv Queer organisation.
If one reads the website description of Munich Kyiv Queer it is clear that the group is an interface between the queer communities of Munich, Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. They initiate, conceptualise, organise and begin projects, either alone or in coordination with other groups and organisations. They stand side by side with them providing help and advice. Though modest in actions, these people have made history. And they continue to make history.
The basis: A city partnership between Munich and Kyiv
The group came to be with the Munich Kyiv city partnership. The idea was to invite a delegation from Kyiv to Munich Pride in 2012. After this there were several exchanges between the city’s LGBTIQ* communites and thus began the long lived cooperation and the foundation of the Munich Kyiv Queer contact group. The first to be involved were, inter alia, Conrad, Sibylle, Uwe (in Munich) and Stas (in Kyiv).
The contact group grew, remains active and is always open. And when they want to build a bridge (whatever it may be) there is nothing that they won’t do in order to make it happen. Translation of books, exhibitions, making LGBTIQ* visible, especially trans* persons, collabs, workshops for volunteers from Ukraine learning about the queer community in Munich and so much more.
Always remaining open with all, Munich Kyiv Queer aims to be a bridge between the communities and self-help groups and remain transparent therein.
Now that the bridge has matured it has become far more than just a bridge. The bridge is part of the activities organised and one of the most important and successful international communal projects in Germany. It works in both German and Ukrainian communities. The projects reach and extend to the whole of Ukraine.
Extension of projects to the whole of Ukraine
Although it may sound easy, it requires mountains of work. And it has already had an effect on a whole generation, not only Ukrainians but Germans too. The partners of Munich Kyiv Queer now include groups throughout Ukraine: whether it be in Vinnitsa, Zaporizhzhia, Odesa, Kharkiv, Kyiv or Lviv. Not to mention assorted organisations carrying out prevention of HIV infection.
A very important alliance was formed with Gay Alliance Ukraine especially in the regions. For example, when financial support of HIV prevention was halted in 2016, Munich Kyiv Queer financed the Queer Homes project. So what does it mean, a queer home in Ukraine? It is a safe space. It provides confidence and freedom of choice. It means being able to know someone without having to hide or lie about ones self.
Another beautiful example was the invitation of queer choirs from Ukraine to participate in a queer choirs festival in Munich (Various Voices 2018). With the experience learned form this event a similar one was arranged in Odesa: the Q festival. Now Ukrainians invited queer choirs from Munich to Odesa. I could go on at length with all the other projects that have been arranged…
The launch of Pride and the beginning of queer visibility
One of the most important milestones was the attendance of normally at least 20 people from the Munich community to Gay Pride in Kyiv, which began already in 2012. I am amazed at the courage of those who not only attended but affected the development of the Pride movement in Ukraine.
The first KyivPride carried danger to the health and lives of all those who joined it. The support and attendance by the international community ensured change of the event over the years. Political pressure was applied and Munich Kyiv Queer was one of the first groups that provided support. After a few years this intervention helped the Pride move to the high-streets. Both in the psychological as well as the actual sense.
KyivPride now happens!
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24th of February 2022 Munich Kyiv Queer found itself fulfilling a new role as a help organisation – in particular for queer war victims in distress or fleeing.
Munich Kyiv Queer was co-founder of the “Queer Emergency Aid Ukraine” group (Queere Nothilfe Ukraine) along with over 40 other German organisations. They raised a million Euros for queer people in distress and work with 15 NGOs in Ukraine. Most important was the fast response that resulted from the contacts built over years with the Munich Kyiv Queer group.
Solidarity trip into the war zone
Members of Munich Kyiv Queer, inter alia Sibylle, travelled to Ukraine in order to show solidarity with their friends as well as providing help but most of all to be at their side. Sibylle experienced rocket attacks as well as thanks from Ukrainians that she will never forget. She documented her experiences in film and text, managing to raise 14 000 Euros in donations.
Munich Kyiv Queer also collected stories under the motto: ‘How does one live in a war?’ In order to make people aware of the situation of queer people. Here I’d like to recount the story of Lera, a trans* person from Oleshki in the Cherson region. Oleshki is still in Russian hands. Thanks to Munich Kyiv Queer we got to hear what life for a trans* person living in an occupied land is like.
Lera managed, with the help of the Cherson organisation “Insha”, to escape via Crimea, Russia and finally Estonia to Berlin where she currently lives.
Munich Kyiv Queer is currently organising shelters for and ways of getting queer refugees out of Ukraine and into safety. The aim was and remains to bring queer refugees into German communities. A mammoth task, one of many mammoth tasks.
On the 11th of July 2023, a photography exhibition entitled “I am in Ukraine, I am out of Ukraine” was held in Berlin. It covered stories and photos of queer people there.
The exhibition was made by KyivPride and thanks to Munich Kyiv Queer was shown in German, too. The locations in Berlin were organised in cooperation with PlusUkrDe – Positive Ukranians In Germany. Again queer war experiences were made visible.
A big thank you to Munich Kyiv Queer
I want to thank Munich Kyiv Queer from the bottom of my heart for its work, its big heartedness, its courage and its bright example to all of the limitless solidarity and humanity it provides.
A lot more work still lies ahead of us. The Russian attack on Ukraine will continue for a while. In the meantime, people and in particular queer people in Ukraine as well as those fleeing the situation there need more than ever our help and support. We are in need of homes for refugees, safe spaces and more work against discrimination.
For the first time this year, official support for laws governing civil partnerships in Ukraine has been provided by the Defense and Justice ministries along with various factions in the Ukrainian Parliament. We now await the outcome from the debates. This breakthrough is thanks to international organisations such as Munich Kyiv Queer. With their ability they are making history.
Hans Peter Hausschild, the name of todays prize, stood completely for eradicating social restrictions. Munich Kyiv Queer stands, with its limitless work, for exactly this spirit by conquering social borders and achieving solidarity.
With best wishes for the future
I would like to wish Munich Kyiv Queer much energy for its continued work and I am very happy to award the Hans Peter Hausschild prize to it today.