Ukraine more accepting of LGBTQ+ people since war began, KyivPride says

The Ukraine and Pride flags

War has changed Ukraine, two KyivPride staffers have said, with many becoming more understanding of LGBTQ+ people.

KyivPride shelter managers, Jul Sirous and Olha Onipko, help LGBTQ+ refugees in Ukraine who have escaped regions that have seen the worst of the fighting.

They told the PA news agency that war has united the country.

“I mean even Ukrainian society was changed and started helping each other,” Onipko said.

“This is the main reason why Russia won’t be able to win, because we are not separate. We are like one nation.”

According to them, the conflict has actually improved how people in Ukraine view the LGBTQ+ community. The country has limited LGBTQ+ rights, with no same-sex marriage and meagre protections from discrimination. A 2019 survey found that just 14 per cent of Ukrainians should be accepted.

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“The opinion about LGBT people [has] changed dramatically,” Onipko continued.

“It’s a good change because a lot of people understand that such things like sexual orientation or gender identity are not very important when you’re saved by these people. I think it’s amazing.”

While the shelter managers said war is a huge price to pay for better understanding of LGBTQ+ people, they are happy to see the change.

Ukrainians demonstrate outside Downing Street against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. A woman is pictured holding up a sign which says "Ukraine" in blue and yellow writing. She is wearing a scarf in the Ukrainian colours around her neck.
Ukrainians demonstrate outside Downing Street against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

Ukraine recently marked a year since the Russian invasion began, with president Volodymyr Zelensky overseeing a ceremony in Kyiv.

“We endured. We were not defeated,” he said.

Another Kyiv Pride staff member, Edward Reese, spoke to PinkNews to mark the date. H explained how, having initially fled the country, he returned home.

“We really want Russia to get out of our country as soon as possible,” he said.

“We want victory. We know we will win this war, that we will have our victory, but it’s definitely very hard to go through all of the things that we go through – from the death of our close ones to bombings.

“But we are not scared. We are tired, angry and active.”

Kyiv Pride is focussed on helping the community by operating a shelter where LGBTQ+ can stay safe and access support.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the US spoke out in support of the LGBTQ+ community at an exhibition in Washington

Meanwhile Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, was at a Washington photo exhibition of LGBTQ+ Ukrainian military members last month, marking the first time such a high-profile politician from the country has attended an LGBTQ-focused event.

Markarova described the LGBTQ+ community as “inseparable”, during the event at Ukraine House, the Washington Blade reports.

“[The] LGBTQ+ community is an inseparable community of us, whether it’s here or in Ukraine,” she said.

“The faster we can stop any discrimination, the faster we will win, not only in the battlefield in Ukraine, but we also will win globally,” she continued. “It’s unbelievable and [the] ultimate sacrifice to be there in harm’s way.”

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