Tetiana. Lesbian, 48 years old, from Mykolaiv. The interview took place in March 2023.

Hi, my name is Tetiana, I’m 48 years old, and I’m from Mykolaiv. I’m a reserve lieutenant and a Candidate Master of Sports in competitive shooting. For many years I worked at an aluminium refinery.

Even though more than a year and a half has passed, I remember the beginning of the full-scale invasion very well. On the night of February 24th, I was at work on a night shift. Our plant, by the way, is located on the third line of defense from the city. So we were the first to hear the beginning of the invasion. We were also the first to feel it: we had a missile hit right at the entrance gate.

However, there was no confusion or panic: about a month before the start, the plant’s management began preparing us for a possible attack. We had drills, so we were ready. The only thing was that it was night, it was dark, and I was still working at an altitude of 40 meters. It was a little scary going down the side steel stairs. But it was okay, I made it down. 

Immediately after the start of the full-scale invasion, we started to bring the plant to standby, because we have a continuous production: you can’t simply press the “off” button. So I’ve been working for about a month and a half longer. At that time we had no regular shifts anymore, we had worked full days in a row.

Honestly, I intuitively felt that there would be war. I keep track of politics a little, and I’ve been actively involved in political life since about 2000: I went to all the elections and even participated in the creation of a political party in Mykolaiv. So the beginning of a full-scale war was not a surprise to me.

And I’ve had my go-bag in the corner since 2014, so I just picked it up. In fact, all my relatives are connected to the security forces, so for me, such carry-on and strategic supplies are the norm.

I am not at the front line now. If I were alone, I would have been at the front a long time ago, but I have old disabled parents, so I’m here now. People in the homefront can also help bring victory closer, can’t they?

At the beginning of the full-scale war, a charitable organization called the House of Fleet

Officers appeared in our city, it is the largest organization in the city. I was contacted by some athletes I knew and was offered to cooperate with this organization to deliver humanitarian aid. At first, I took care of my own and neighboring houses.

The first time we brought 600 boxes of aid. Over time, the number of people reached almost 4000. It was physically impossible to cover this number, so I delegated some of the work, like keeping track of the lists, to active old ladies. Now we have 60 people left to whom we are still delivering humanitarian aid.

Nevertheless, all of this is not what I planned to do in the spring of 2023. I planned to buy a new car and move into my own house. I had a lot of plans in general. But now I live in a new reality. I have old parents, and since the beginning of the full-scale war, I have moved them four times: first, I moved them to another part of the city because their house was right next to a checkpoint, so they were constantly being hit. Then I moved them out of town, then to Odesa, and finally to Chornomorsk. My father is paralyzed, and my mother had a heart attack. It’s hard for me, and it’s hard for them too. 

Despite all the difficulties, I still stay in Mykolaiv. And, by the way, now I notice that people from the LGBTQ community are coming back. Some people miss their hometown, some have not found their place elsewhere, and some say, “This is my home, why should I be anywhere else?” People are not even afraid of the unresolved water issue. I mean, it isn’t totally unresolved. Wells are being drilled, water is brought by trucks, someone buys it… Yes, it is a problem, but it is solvable. We can solve it on our own.

Unfortunately, I do not feel any support from the state. I’m not a pensioner, not a low-income

person, not a family with many children. I was registered at the employment center for six months, and during these six months, I was offered a job as a janitor. And this is despite the fact that I have two degrees. I can say that in Mykolaiv, one in three people are currently unemployed. If I didn’t know how to manage on my own, I don’t know how I would have survived.

I hope that the war will end soon. And I believe that the victory will be ours. Yes, people who have been through hell will come back from the front. Yes, this will affect everything, including the attitude towards LGBTQ people. But I also believe that Ukraine has every chance to become a more tolerant country with European values. In the meantime, let’s bring victory closer together.