An LGBT+ family have been forced to flee Russia after starring in an inclusive grocery store advert that attracted vicious death threats.
Lesbian couple Yuma and Zhenya and their two children Mila and Alina faced immediate backlash after featuring in an ad for the Russian supermarket chain VkusVill earlier this year.
The family have now fled to Barcelona in Spain, having become the target of relentless death threats in their homophobic homeland.
“Here there is no need to hide our happiness to be a family. We have not made a final decision yet if we will stay in Spain and for how long, if we will. But we do not plan to return to Russia in the foreseeable future,” Yuma told RFE/RL.
VkusVill initially ran the ad at the end of Pride month as part of a series spotlighting their regular customers. Yuma was described as a psychologist and LGBT+ activist with two daughters, one of whom planned to marry her girlfriend.
In the ad she explains that “family is not just blood kinship or a stamp in your passport,” adding: “Family is people we love. Those who always can support and cover.”
Yuma and Zhenya’s family were initially displayed on the company’s website under the slogan “Recipes for family happiness” – but the supermarket rapidly distanced itself after their site was hit with a flurry of hate messages.
Within days the the ad was removed and VkusVill had posted a statement of apology signed by the founder and several other senior executives.
“There was an article in this place that hurt the feelings of a large number of both our customers and employees,” it read.
“We regret that it happened, and we consider this publication a mistake that became a manifestation of the unprofessionalism of individual employees.”
The decision left the family open to vile homophobic abuse, which came thick and fast via phone and social media.
Homophobes in Russia threatened to ‘rape and stab’ granddaughter
Speaking to the YouTuber Karen Shainyan, who interviewed the family once they were safely outside Russia, Yuma said she could ignore messages from “haters” but was scared by comments directed at her eight-year-old granddaughter.
“I was just knocked back by comments to my granddaughter, where some people wrote that they want to rape her, to kill her, to stab a child who is just sitting and smiling in the photograph,” she said. “I’m most afraid for my granddaughter.”
Vkusvill declined to comment on the family’s departure from Russia, according to Reuters.
“Comments are just the tip of the iceberg,” Yuma said, recalling previous homophobic attacks where she had been doused with chemicals by masked thugs and targeted by crowds threatening to stab her and set her on fire.
“I don’t want that to happen, I want to protect my family,” she said. “I don’t want to live like that. I’m tired.”