WARSAW—This weekend, for the first time ever, Warsaw Pride (Parada Równości) was not led by queer people from Poland, but by a group from out of town: LGBTQ Ukrainians.
After the Russian army began invading Ukraine on February 24, the last thing on Ukrainian queer minds was what to do with Pride. Instead, they focused on survival. Not only surviving from the constant shelling and even mass executions and other likely war crimes in places like Bucha, but also surviving on another level. Ukrainian gays knew that should the Russian army capture a city where they lived, they would become one of the first targets of the army.
When it became clear in early March this year that President Zelenskyy would not flee the capital and that Kyiv would not immediately fall victim to the invading Russian army, the Kiev Pride Committee began to plan ahead to June 2022. The government in Kyiv would hold the annual Marsh Rivnosti/Pride March had been very well supported for a number of years and possibly gotten a permit, the danger that Putin would deliberately bomb a Pride March in Kyiv was too real. That’s why this year’s Pride took place 500 miles away in Warsaw this weekend.
Lenny Emson, the director of Kyiv Pride, said before the march that “Russia has denied us Pride, our march for equality that we have held in Kyiv every year since 2012” and that they had to find another venue in response Kyiv to hold the march.
Poland, which has taken in more Ukrainian refugees than any other country, seemed a natural place for the march. The Warsaw Pride Committee readily agreed to play a gracious host.
Julia Maciocha from the Parada Równości/Warsaw Pride Committee for 2022 said: “We want to stand together against war, for the freedom of Ukraine, for liberation, for equality, tolerance and acceptance.”
The Warsaw Pride Committee emphasized that this weekend’s Pride parade is not a celebration but an anti-war parade: “For us at the Equality Parade, community means standing up for others. Fellowship means marching arm in arm for the safety and freedom of those from whom it has been taken. We are proud to support Kyiv in their march for Ukraine’s victory.” And so one of the most unusual Pride marches in the more than 50-year history of Pride marches was born: a joint Ukrainian-Polish Pride march, the was held in Warsaw, with the Kiev Pride float leading the way.
Between this weekend’s Pride march in Warsaw and the start of the Russian invasion, the queer community in Kyiv has transformed from a general advocacy group to a group that provides services to internally displaced queer Ukrainians.
A Kyiv Pride manifesto was posted on her Instagram: “We call on the brotherly and sisterly queer communities of Europe and the world to show maximum solidarity with Ukrainian LGBTQI+ people – solidarity in values, ideology and politics. Affected by Russian aggression, we still need your help.”
Emson said: “When the invasion started we had to find out what the community needed and that was direct services because suddenly so many of us were on the brink of poverty, right? Originally we had our office full of sleeping bags on the floor, but as time passed and donations came in we were able to rent a facility that can accommodate up to 25 people for free. We are now a shelter and a community center.”
One concern expressed by Emson and others was that donations could dwindle as people abroad grew bored watching the war unfold. They have set up a donation link on their website and hope that one of the results of holding such a large Pride march in Warsaw – some 85,000 people are expected to attend – will be an increase in funds for their ever-multiplying needs.
Although there are many Ukrainian queer people who often serve openly in the Ukrainian army (mainly gay men, but also some trans people and lesbians), they could not march in Warsaw. They recently started an informal “unicorn” group and even have an Instagram and Facebook page where they share their stories.
Deniel Johnson, a Ukrainian gay man who serves openly and wears the unicorn patch on his uniform, recently said on Instagram that he has fallen in love: “The best thing is that I met my lover during the war. I am very happy about it, I love him very much, but at the same time I am constantly worried. Right now I’m longing for our victory and to meet my darling. I wish we could go to the sea, have a glass of red wine and watch the stars embrace until the sun comes up.”
Emson told The Daily Beast that the Russian army, while very proud of Ukrainian gays in the army for speaking out so freely, uses the existence of “unicorn soldiers” in their propaganda, even falsely claiming that there are “gay battalions” are the Ukrainian army.
Like many LGBTQ populations around the world, those at Warsaw Pride said that being visible is an essential part of fighting for their rights. A girl who called her name like Holly told The Daily Beast: “I’m here to fight for our rights because the Polish government doesn’t support us. We’re here just to show that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere and they can’t get rid of us. I just finished high school. My school was kind of supportive, but because the government is the way it is, they couldn’t show their full support. I’m actually scared because of all the anti-trans laws and abortion laws in the US – the same thing is happening here. I just hope everything works out.”
Her friends agreed: they were here not only to celebrate and fight for their own rights, but also to support Ukrainian queers who are literally fighting for their lives.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/kyiv-pride-still-happened-this-weekend-500-miles-away-in-warsaw-poland?source=articles&via=rss Kyiv Pride was still happening this weekend, 500 miles away in Warsaw, Poland