Sashko. Non-binary person, 27 years old. From Mykolaiv, at the beginning of the full-scale war left for Denmark. The interview took place in November 2022.

My name is Sashko, I am a non-binary person and I am almost 27 years old. I’m from Mykolaiv, but now I’m staying in Europe. The last day before the full-scale invasion was a regular day for me. I had phone interviews with several possible employers, arranged an offline meeting with them for the next day. When I woke up on February 24th it was still dark. I made breakfast for myself, even managed to eat.

And suddenly outside the window there was a strange sound, a boom. The sound was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. The first similarity that came to my mind was a car accident, like a car crashing into a lamp post. So I quickly started to get dressed to go help the victims. You see, there had already been an accident once, just next to our house. The sound of the collision had been different yet similar. And that time I’d helped people before the arrival of the ambulance.

But then this sound, this boom, happened again. And again, and again… An anxious feeling arose in my chest, I put my hand to the glass. The glass vibrated from the force of these sounds. Of course, I immediately went online but there was nothing and in general it wasn’t working properly. So there was neither regional nor national news. Silence… And only about 40 minutes later someone dropped the information: a video where Putin in a weird way was announcing the beginning of the war.

The nightmare began at that moment. You know, like in movies about an apocalypse. The only real thing was the risk of death. When it already became lighter outside I went out. Queues at ATMs were huge. People were withdrawing money, they were so shocked that they didn’t even talk. They didn’t know what to do. And I was among those shocked people, whose always peaceful city had its sky thunder with war.

The second morning of the full-scale war was beautiful. Through the window I watched the snow falling quietly, with big fluffy snowflakes. It seemed that the nightmare was over before it had even begun. But no. The minute I left the house a new circle of hell began. At around 11 a.m., people went out into the streets. Confusion and fear were evident on their faces. However, a pharmacy and a supermarket were opened. But it started to blast so much that the pharmacists simply abandoned their workplace and ran to hide. Not even taking off their white coats. I also ran. I was lucky that I didn’t get hit by a bomb or an artillery shell. But many others were not so lucky.

I realized that I couldn’t live in this nightmare, so I decided to leave. I crossed the border legally. I left all my belongings there in Mykolaiv because they were unimportant when life was at stake. When I left Ukraine, I donated all my money to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This made sense because Ukrainians needed this money more.

Here in Europe my financial situation is not so good for now. But I have a peaceful sky above my head. To be honest it didn’t matter where to go. I didn’t know anyone here, I had no acquaintances or friends. I was ready to spend nights on park benches. But I was greeted with hugs. I am now integrated into the system, I have all the rights and responsibilities of a local.

There are a lot of Ukrainian men and women in Europe. And we help Ukraine. It is now not only about individuals, but about society as a whole. We hold charity events and gatherings to gather donations for the Armed Forces, we collected clothes and other things for civilians, made trench candles. Big businesses and the state are also involved: the local McDonald’s transferred half a million kroner (that’s about 2.5 million hryvnias) of aid to Ukraine, Denmark is sending aid, and everyone here is trying to do something to help. Because without this help many people will die. Two people I knew personally had died during the full scale invasion. An LGBT volunteer had died during the enemy bombing. And a homophobic activist had died on the frontlines. And you know, the death of these people who had polar opposite attitudes towards the LGBT community causes equal sadness and despair. Because they defended Ukraine and gave it the most priceless thing – their lives.

Yes, there are homophobes in Ukraine, and there are many of them. And we should not forget that there is aggression in Ukrainian society, mental and physical, aimed at everyone: at women, at children, at LGBT people. It has always existed, it just got worse now. Perhaps someone will say that these things exist everywhere. It might be true, but the question is about the percentage of such people. I believe that it is very high in Ukraine. So much so that it can even be called a part of the mentality. In general in Ukraine people don’t like those who are somehow different from the public. By any measure. Even by thoughts. For example, I find it very strange to see on social networks when someone writes a post with an adequate and thorough criticism of the government, and a lot of crap is poured onto this person with the same old “It’s not the time.” I hope that Ukrainian society will be able to become conscious and mature. A society where everyone will have the right to be different and the right to think differently than the majority.