Julia. Pansexual woman from Odesa. Interview took place in June 2023

My name is Yuliia. I am pansexual. I live in Odesa and raise two teenagers. The last days before the full-scale invasion were nothing unusual. It was my first month at the new job. Naturally, I made future plans, I believed that everything was going to be okay and dismissed the whirlwind of bad news and speculations. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine that it was even possible that in the 21st century, another state would attack my country.

On February 23, I went out with a friend. We had a delicious dinner, drank wine, and watched The Hunger Games. And in the morning, we woke up to explosions. And everything started falling apart. There was no panic, only realization that it really had happened. Almost immediately after the first explosions, I received a call from a friend, breaking the news that the war had begun. Well, I didn’t doubt it – the explosions were convincing enough. I accepted her offer to leave the city. I was adamant that the city would be occupied by the Russian forces in no time and that it was dangerous to stay there. 

We drank coffee, packed some things. Papers. Money. We loaded the car and drove to Izmail – three adults, two teenagers, and a dog. Since I refused the idea of this scenario, my tank was half empty. Gas stations were packed, so I didn’t have enough fuel to get to Izmail. We were stuck somewhere around Saraty. But we got there eventually. We lived in Izmail for almost a month. For the first few days, I cooked food, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was something of a way to regain control of my life. Routine helps to center yourself. So, I tried to regain at least an illusion of control.

Even though we were one step away from Romania or Moldova, I never wanted to go abroad. I knew that the whole world was helping us. It was great. And everything was not as scary as it seemed at first. But then Bucha, Irpin, and Mariupol happened. It was incredibly heartbreaking. Although I still didn’t know what it’s like to live at war, I didn’t want to think about the prospect of being dependent on someone else, facing the challenges of forced emigration, and thinking about how to feed my children in a strange country. Somehow I got a feeling that everything would be fine in Odesa. Over time, I returned to my hometown. 

Yes, after returning from Izmail, I was often afraid. We did not ignore the “rule of two walls”. I went to a bomb shelter for the first time almost a year later when a missile hit The Orthodox Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa. We still go to this day. It has been more dangerous lately with all the missiles and drones. I feel the threat to my life now more than ever before. Every day I pass the building on Shevchenko Avenue, where the missile hit. It was not far from my house. There was a restaurant called “Cherdak” and a museum of “Interesting Science”. I visited this museum many times with my children. The sound of a hit was very loud. I think it’s ridiculous to ignore this and to think that the war is somewhere out there, and it doesn’t concern me. It scares me, of course, there is a risk to my life as well as any other Ukrainian. 

And still, life goes on. I got a new job after staying at home for six months, and the children returned to school, to the usual rhythm of life, socializing with friends. I guess I didn’t want to get attached to any responsibility, I wanted to know that at any moment I could break away and leave Ukraine as a free bird. But now I realize that I feel good in Ukraine, despite everything that is happening now. My friends are coming back, people are getting used to living in new conditions, adapting to changes despite the constant shelling and the threat of winter blackouts. 

Surprisingly, it was during the war that I realized that Ukraine was becoming more tolerant. And I’m not just talking about LGBTQ+ people right now. I’m talking about different minorities experiencing stress. Our law says that it is prohibited to discriminate on any basis, including sexual orientation. So, we are progressive compared to some other countries. But we still need to continue fighting for our rights. I guess you can say that Ukraine is both tolerant and not at the same time. 

That is why when the full-scale invasion began, I somehow did not think that I might be in any danger because of my sexual orientation. You see, I accept myself as I am. And I don’t separate myself from other people on any grounds. I know that the danger threatens all people who fell under the occupation. I am just a citizen of my country. I AM A UKRAINIAN WOMAN! In fact, if occupation comes, I am in danger simply because I support Ukraine. 

Will attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people change after the victory? I can’t say for sure. But I recently read that the rate of domestic violence has doubled this year compared to last year. Most of the victims were women. I can see why: increased anxiety and stress often lead to aggression. And violence against LGBTQ+ folks is already normalized for some. It is very likely that after our victory, we get the honorable title of the most psychologically traumatized nation and I have no idea what we can do about it. Well, I may be wrong, of course. Everything might turn out fine. And in this case I will be more than happy to be wrong.