‘Brave and courageous’ Ukrainian LGBT+ activist killed by Russian bombs. She was just 21

Elvira Schemur

A queer law student and defiant activist has been killed by Russian bombing in Kharkiv, Ukraine, local LGBT+ activists have confirmed.

Elvira Schemur, who has also been referred to as Elya Schemur, was a 21-year-old civil society activist who was “one of the first Pride volunteers to join the Kharkiv regional defence” when Russia invaded, according to Ukrainian activist Maksym Eristavi.

Eristavi, who is a board member with Kyiv Pride, confirmed to the Washington Blade that Schemur was killed in Russian bombing on 1 March. She was volunteering at a regional administration building in the city when it was struck by a Russian missile.

“Rest in power Elvira,” Eristavi wrote on Twitter. “Elvira inspired folks to follow her, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defence of freedom and equality… She was brave and courageous. Patriot and a hero. Never forget. Never forgive.”

Her death was confirmed by Kharkiv Pride on Friday (18 March).

“Yesterday, we received a deeply tragic notification of the death of our volunteer Elya Schemur. Elya was an activist and a patriot: she participated in all possible actions and democratic events of Kharkiv.”

LGBT+ activist joined the struggle ‘for freedom and equality’ following invasion of Ukraine

The Pride organisation said Schemur went through three Kharkiv Prides with them and that she was “actively engaged in human rights interventions”.

“She inspired and motivated not only our team but all volunteers around. People followed her into her struggle for freedom and equality.

“And when she smiled, everyone smiled back.”

The activists behind Kharkiv Pride said they will remember Schemur as a “patriot and a hero”.

“We express our sincere condolences to Elya’s loved ones and are ready to provide any help they require. Heroes don’t die, only enemies do!”

In a statement, Vira Chernygina, an activist with Kharkiv Pride, told PinkNews that Schemur was “the best person” she knew in Ukraine’s LGBT+ community.

“It seems that with her appearance in LGBT+ activism in Ukraine, a new breath has emerged. Elya took part in every activity that she was not afraid of or dangerous, Elya was not afraid of anything.

“I looked at her, at a girl who was not yet 20 years old, and could not believe that there were such women around me. She was a light, she was my inspiration to keep fighting. Elya will remain this inspiration for me forever. We will definitely win for her and dedicate the next Kharkiv Pride (2022) to her. Heroes do not die!”

More than three million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion just three weeks ago.

The number of people killed in the war is less clear – the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 1,900 civilian casualties up until 15 March, with 726 of those killed. The true number is likely higher.

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations have so far failed to produce meaningful results, and the war continues to rage on.