Thousands unite for joint Polish and Ukrainian LGBTQ+ Pride parade in Warsaw

Two women, one of them wrapped into a Ukrainian flag, kis

In a stunning show of solidarity, Poland’s Warsaw Pride and Ukraine’s KyivPride united for a single, joyous Pride parade in Warsaw.

On Saturday (25 June), thousands of glittery protesters flooded the streets of Poland’s capital for the Equality Parade, the largest queer event in central Europe.

Joining them were 300 members and supporters of the embattled KyivPride, who were unable to gather in their own country because of the spectre of war.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has devastated once thriving cities, forced millions to flee and plunged the world into uncertainty – LGBTQ+ people included.

More than 11 LGBTQ+ organisations from across Ukraine joined in the parade. Equality Parade organisers hope to use the joint event to ensure Ukraine’s continued struggle for freedom from the Russian invasion remains in the people’s minds.

KyivPride director Lenny Emson issued a dire warning to Pride-goers before the march – if Ukraine is seized by the Kremlin, the LGBTQ+ community will face untold harm.

“We are grateful to Warsaw Pride … but it is very painful that our city is now under the threat of bombing,” Emson, who came to Poland for the march, told the crowd.

WarsawPride and KyivPride locked arms for the parade. (WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The invasion has all but silenced LGBTQ+ people trapped in occupied territories, he said. Many have retreated back inside the closet while trans folk stop their hormone treatments in a desperate bid to stay safe.

“For our community, it’s a huge thing. A huge chunk of our community is stuck in Ukraine because they have the gender marker ‘male’ in their passport, including trans people.

“They are with us and we are with them – and today we are marching for them.”

As KyivPride and Warsaw Pride locked arms, Russian forces unleashed a cavalcade of cruise missiles across Ukraine, including in Belarus and the waters of the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said.

The sprawling and widespread assault was the latest in Russia’s barrage of strikes that have pounded civilian areas of cities and towns.

Poland has emerged as a key ally of Ukraine, with more than 1.1 million people having fled to Poland since the beginning of the war on 24 February, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says.

Warsaw Pride especially has become a lifeline for queer Ukrainians. Activists have scrambled to ensure trans people who have come across the border have access to gender-affirming healthcare and safe accommodation.

Such support is crucial for LGBTQ+ Ukrainians, considering Poland is among the most homophobic countries in Europe, according to equality rights rankings.

Poland, a country that is a patchwork of “LGBT-free zones“, has seen the ruling Law and Justice Party turn LGBTQ+ Poles into public enemy number one.

In February, lawmakers pushed through a bill that will heavily restrict LGBTQ+ topics in schools by giving the government greater control over school curriculums.