Maxim. Gay, 42 years old. From Odesa. Is currently helping at the volunteer center. The interview took place in March 2023.

I am 42 years old, I’m gay. I’ve been living with my boyfriend for the last 10 years. I was born and raised in Odesa. And I was in Odesa when the full-scale invasion began.

As soon as it started to “bang” outside the window, I fetched my sister and nephews and persuaded them to go. She drives a car, so there were no problems with that. First, they got to Lviv, where her friend lives, and then went abroad. Now they are in Germany. Their trip was a long one, but that is a separate story. The main thing is they reached their destination.

As soon as my sister left, I went to Biskvitnyi Lane to the blood transfusion station to help the wounded soldiers. I stood there in line for about eight hours, and after that decided to go to the military commissariat. There they told me to come the next day at nine in the morning with my belongings. No medical examination. Which is understandable: these were precarious times.

My boyfriend wouldn’t let me go alone, so the next day we went to the military office together. We arrived there in the morning, as I had been told, but they said that the departure to the military base would be around two o’clock. So we went wandering around.

We arrived at the base after all. Meanwhile, a shootout was happening there! It turned out that there was some sabotage and reconnaissance group. It was eliminated. While the shootout was happening, we were sitting and waiting behind the bus. When everything was over, the military personnel came for us. As soon as they began conducting an inspection and talking to us, the alarm went off, and the firefight started again! We were immediately told to drop to the ground and crawl towards the base.

When everything quieted down, we were told to line up near the wall. They started checking phones, asking about our biographies. At that time it was unclear, but later I found out how lucky we got. As soon as we’d left the Kyivskii military commissariat, there was a firefight with a sabotage group. We arrived at the base – another sabotage, then air raid alert. And the cherry on top – in our group there was a citizen of Belarus. But, he said, he had permission from the SSU (Security Service of Ukraine) to serve. In other words, we were a very, very suspicious group.

We spent four days in a reserve unit, sleeping on mattresses that had probably been scrapped during World War II. They didn’t know what to do with us. But on the fourth day we were told that those who hadn’t served previously could go back home. In Territorial defence, where I also went, preference was also given to people with military experience.

I carried sandbags, helped at the volunteer centre. Tried to do something, to be useful. Nevertheless, I constantly feel that I am not doing enough. It weighed on me so much that I consulted a psychologist. I’ve recently realized that I need a psychiatrist at this point.

I was a pacifist my whole life. But now I understand that I have to do something. For example, save someone from a bullet. Or cover a mine with my body. I believe that my uselessness doesn’t exempt me from responsibility. That’s why I have these moral and emotional swings.

Besides, I’m gay. And gays do not have a very good life in Ukraine, because it’s a rather homophobic country. Although, it’s not that bad in comparison. And even though I don’t feel free here, I won’t abandon this country for any other. My Homeland. Sure, a certain number of people close to me know about my sexual orientation and support me. And I know for sure that if something happens, I won’t get any special support from anyone else, including the authorities. Basically, like any other citizen of our country. So why should gay men be any better in this regard?

However, I want to believe that Ukraine will be free after the victory. Not just from Russian forces. But also from hatred, from being divided and from oppression. Free from corruption. With a conscious society and government. Because rulers are secondary, it all depends on the society. And if it is mature, it will cope with any rulers and create a suitable leadership for itself. And it – this leadership – will adopt the laws that will be able to unite us, not divide us.