Kira. Lesbian, 21 years old. From the city of Kherson. During the occupation, she was able to leave Kherson for Bulgaria. She has now returned to Ukraine. The interview took place in January 2023.

Hello, my name is Kira, I am a lesbian. I come from Kherson, but now I live in Kyiv. I left almost everything in my hometown: friends, relatives, property, work. On the eve of the full-scale invasion, we opened an additional car dealership at the company where I worked at that time. We had so many future plans! I was full of inspiration, desire to work, ideas. But I cannot say that I wasn’t expecting the war at all. 

About a month before, I’d been regularly watching the news. So I perfectly understood that the situation was as tense and severe as possible. I remember very well that on the 23rd of February I cancelled my visit to the gym. 

I met the first day of the full-scale invasion at home. In the morning, a friend, who I hadn’t spoken to for a long time with, called me. At that moment I understood everything. My girlfriend and I quickly gathered the essentials and rushed to work. We tried to somehow center ourselves this way and not disrupt our normal life. Then, when we came to our senses a little, we decided that we should go to our parents. There was at least some sense of security with them. 

Everyone in Kherson was in danger, regardless of whether you were part of the LGBT community or not. Of course, every time I went out into the city, I deleted any information that might identify me as a lesbian from my phone. And if before the invasion I could sometimes walk hand in hand with my girlfriend, then after February 24th I had to give it up. But compared to other fears, this one seems so insignificant… 

During the occupation, I brought communication with unfamiliar people to a minimum, because it could have had consequences. I steered clear of the Russian soldiers, although it wasn’t easy. The city was simply full of them. I must mention that in the beginning of the occupation, we used to go to rallies. At that time, everything hadn’t been so brutal. We’d had enough food, we had put away grains, pasta and even meat. Of course, the shops had been emptied almost immediately. 

But over time, the Russian forces were becoming more and more cruel. When the shelling subsided even a little, we would go to the market to get at least something. We could stay in line for an hour or an hour and a half, and end up buying nothing. Everyone was selling anything they could. At that time, it seemed like it was already the end. But after I evacuated, my parents told me that everything became much worse. The threat of death from shelling. The threat of death due to the pro-Ukrainian position. The threat of death because a Russian soldier just didn’t like you. The threat of death due to someone ratting you out. 

We lived in this chaos until the middle of spring 2022. I couldn’t even dare to evacuate for a long time, because there were no humanitarian corridors, there was only talk about some options to leave. My girlfriend’s sister had tried to leave Kherson, but they came under fire. Fortunately, she was fine, she survived. But after this, I was very scared, which also delayed our evacuation.

And then our friends offered us a ride, as we didn’t have our own car. I realized that this was most probably the last chance, so I pulled myself together and we left. Fortunately, the road was more or less quiet. First, we set a course for Odesa, and then for Bulgaria. We stayed there from the beginning of summer to the end of autumn. My girlfriend and I even got a job there. Worked as cleaners, then in a hotel. But in most cases we earned very little money which wasn’t enough to live comfortably there. So the choice was between moving to another EU country or returning to Ukraine and building a life there. I chose the latter, and I don’t regret it. We’ve been living in Kyiv since 2023. Now I work in a car dealership, we rent an apartment with my significant other. Unfortunately, my parents stayed in Kherson. It’s good that at least my girlfriend’s parents were able to get out of there. For some time the eight of us lived in a two-room apartment: my girlfriend and I, her parents, her sister with her child and godparents. Now there are only the two of us, it is easier.

My girlfriend and I often discuss plans for when the victory comes. Unfortunately, I can’t say that Ukraine is a tolerant country. We constantly have to invent some lies, hide the truth about ourselves so that it doesn’t affect the quality of our life. I don’t know if society will ever come to accept us, and if it might only happen through implementation of laws. It seems to me that in order for it to happen, a whole generation must grow up with a new worldview and mentality. Maybe I’m just pessimistic. Perhaps after the victory, everything will really change for the better. For now, it is what it is.