Michiko. Non-binary person, 17 years old. From Mykolaiv. The interview took place in April 2023.

Hi, I’m Michiko. In Japanese, it means “a smart, beautiful child”. I am almost 17 years old. I live in Mykolaiv. Well, not so much as live… I’m surviving here. I like boys, but I like girls more. And I love anime. I think it’s clear from the name I gave myself. It’s impossible not to love anime. Especially because there are no completely bad characters in it. Unlike real life…

I remember one day last summer we had 24 hits in one night! Our building’s entrance was smashed. Schools, hospitals – everything in ruins. And almost always the shellings are at night. That’s why I try to go to bed early. Around seven or eight in the evening. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch a few hours of sleep before the explosions start.

It is simply impossible to sleep at night. You’re just lying and wondering how close the last explosion was? Was it a simple projectile or a missile? Was it a single one, or are others still coming? Even if the night passes more or less quietly, you constantly ask yourself: “When is the next time? When?” And you even feel some form of relief when the telegram channel “Mykolaivsky Vanyok” writes: “Kittens, time to hide.” It is said that Kim himself writes these messages. He once wrote that since the beginning of full-scale war, we had only 20 quiet nights. But I don’t remember them, it seems to me every night there were shellings.

However, I remember how my mother woke me up shouting, “The war has begun!” My boss immediately wrote in the work chat that we should pack bug-out bags. I came to work in the workshop (I work in a sewing workshop), and there the girls were sitting and working. Well, what else to do? Stay at home? No, thank you. I was better at work, it was distracting. But we were immediately sent on “vacation”. Ten days later, one volunteer offered us to help the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He said he had fabric and accessories, so let’s sew for the guys on the front because they were practically naked. And we spent two months sewing plate carriers and unloading systems for the soldiers. And only later we began to sew some patriotic clothes as well.

But in April there was a hit next to the workshop. It was at night, the workshop was empty. I think someone assumed that we worked on the orders from the military. I saw after the shelling there was a car with some people inside driving slowly, trying to spy out something. You know, it’s a habit of mine – I don’t even know when it started – to look around, to spot something new. Probably it started when I first encountered persecution due to my sexual orientation. Then my address was leaked to some groups, I was threatened, various “messages” were written on the walls of my building’s entrance. It is as scary now as it was then, but I don’t even think about leaving the city. My girlfriend’s mother is in the hospital. So my girlfriend is here, and I cannot imagine my life without her. I think people can be as tenacious as cats. As they say, a Ukrainian will plant a small garden even in hell. Just picture it: there’s a woman in our building, she made a flower bed out of craters from missiles.

And why go somewhere now? It no longer makes sense, they have already realised that they are not welcome here. So they will soon get tired of fooling around, and they will go back to Russia. The only thing, unfortunately,is that in Ukraine everything isn’t so good with the attitude towards LGBT people compared to Europe. There I would be able to freely say that I, Masha Pyrizhkova, live with a girl and enjoy my life. And in Ukraine, I have to use an alias. In that, we still aren’t very different from Russians. Although ages ago in Europe, gay people had been burned at the stakes, and later they were “treated” with electric current. LGBT people got all their rights and freedoms not so long ago. And we will get them eventually, too. If only the victory came fast.