Vitya. Gay, 57 years old. From Odesa. The interview took place in June 2023.

My name is Viktor, I am 57 years old. I’m a poet, a novelist, a DJ and openly gay. An artist, as they say. I’ve been living in Ukraine for 14 years. Before that, I lived in Germany for 17 years, and before Germany I lived in St. Petersburg for 26 years. My life has been quite a whirlwind. In general, we are all guests in this world, the only question is whether you are a good guest. To be able to tell yourself before sleep that you are a good person can be quite reassuring. The sleep is better.

I am an extroverted extrovert, I enjoy surprising and shocking the public. I am well known as a writer of gay prose, although this genre is gradually fading into the past. On the one hand, it’s sad, but on the other hand, I understand that gays have ceased to be something that arouses curiosity. Society is starting to understand that we are just ordinary people.

And the war simply emphasized this “normalcy”. To be honest, Odesa citizens have little to complain about, so far the war hasn’t affected us as hard compared to other regions that have really suffered. I don’t even know where the bomb shelter is. It’s not that I’m tired of living. Just by the time you get down from my 21st floor, the air raid alert is already called off.

The war has brought us new experiences. Did I want them? No. But we have what we have. And the war also made me realise that I really love Odesa and its people. These are different, special people, there is something about them… Although it could be my imagination, I am a writer after all.

But what I’m really sure of now is that Ukraine has become more tolerant of LGBT people. I think this happened primarily thanks to the state support for the equality marches. The trend of throwing stones at us has changed as tolerance has come into fashion. In most countries, this process was initiated “from above”, and we are no exception. No way we’ll ever be like Holland of course, but there are some positive changes.

And there is no need for us to become like them. Because gay pride in, let’s say, Cologne is a purely political thing, kind of a boring local event. There, in general, these marches have a long history. For centuries it has been customary to organize some kind of marches: sometimes for firefighters, sometimes for chimney sweepers. And while they marched, the rest of the townspeople stood by their houses and waited for their day to also walk the streets and be proud of themselves. It’s not about me and it’s not for me. Perhaps this also played a role in me moving here from Europe. And I still have no regrets about this decision.

But the fact that I lived in Germany for many years helped me, many people still know me there. After February 2022, in the beginning of the full-scale war my German friends organized a fundraiser to help the people of Odesa. With this money, my friends and I bought food. And then another organization sent me a mini-van full of canned goods and flour. We distributed these products to the people in need. Unfortunately, now the Germans are not so inclined to donate. But life goes on.

This life has a place for everything: love, death, sex. Adrenaline connoisseurs have always existed. I don’t judge them, but it’s not for me. For example, sometimes the air raid alerts bother me. I’m already of a respectable age, and on top of that there are missiles to worry about.

So far I haven’t thought of going abroad. But if the situation worsens, I’ll try to get there somehow. There’s a desire to live. And there’s also a desire for victory. But I also understand quite well that after the victory, many people will return from the front with PTSD. The risk of shootings in gay clubs will increase. But the general situation should improve, because many people will also return from tolerant Europe, where, I hope, they will have learnt something after all this time. As I learnt in my time. But in any case, the victory is what we need first. Afterwards, we’ll act according to the situation.