For queer people, summer tends to be dominated by Pride marches, care-free parties and rallies for equal rights – but in Ukraine, it’s a very different story.
There are no Pride marches and there are certainly no parties. Instead, the country is engaged in a bitter war with invading Russian troops.
Almost 18 months since Russian president Vladimir Putin sent his forces over the border, the war shows no sign of abating.
There’s no time to fight for LGBTQ+ rights when everyone’s fighting just to stay alive.
So, obviously, for the people involved with Kyiv Pride, it’s a difficult time. But they’re more than happy to put their own concerns on the back burner while they pool their resources to support LGBTQ+ soldiers and queer citizens.
That’s why a simple act of kindness from Liverpool Pride has made such a difference.
This year, the UK city’s LGBTQ+ community will host a march on behalf of Kyiv Pride, with members from Ukraine and other parts of Europe set to join them.
Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community are living under ‘constant stress’
For Edward Reese, one of the activists with Kyiv Pride, it’s a powerful opportunity to shine a spotlight on the plight of LGBTQ+ Ukrainians – and to remind the world that the war hasn’t gone away.
Edward Reese wants Pride marches to shine a light on Ukraine’s struggles. (Natalia Zhukova/Supplied)
When Edward speaks to PinkNews, he paints a picture of a community ravaged by the “constant stress” that comes with living through a war. Many activists are working around the clock to keep those most in need afloat. But international organisations, he says, are not doing enough.
“We are trying to survive and we are trying to help each other,” Edward says.
“We use any platform, any possibility, to remind the world that the war in Ukraine – the biggest in Europe since the Second World War – is still going on.
“Russia is still destroying us. Russia is still destroying democratic values. All the Pride marches right now are a possibility to speak about that.”
For Ukrainian activists, Liverpool Pride is not only an opportunity to draw attention to their struggle, it’s also a chance to build on the relationship created over the past year after Liverpool hosted Eurovision on their behalf.
“We are very grateful and we appreciate the help Liverpool gave us,” Edward says. “Unfortunately, I was not able to visit Eurovision. I am a big fan but I watched it from home and I voted. I saw how big the Ukrainian presence was in Liverpool. It was amazing.”
Liverpool staged the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine. (Getty)
Eurovision is strictly non-political, which meant there was little mention of the war, aside from a few thinly veiled references in songs. That’s why Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community now want Liverpool Pride to be as political as possible.
“We see this Pride as a big possibility to be political because it’s not politics, it’s our survival – that’s why it’s very important.”
The Pride march will represent a powerful moment of unity for queer communities separated by borders and war, and even as the war rages on, queer Ukrainians are holding out hope for the future.
“When we defeat Russia – when we win this war – we will be waiting for everyone at the first Pride march in Kyiv after the victory,” Edward vows.
Andi Herring, the chief executive of Liverpool City Region Pride Foundation, says it’s important to LGBTQ+ people in Liverpool that they have the chance to show solidarity with Ukraine and to keep building on the relationship that blossomed with Eurovision.
“We’ve always been an outwardly looking European city and we are keen to keep that message there,” he tells PinkNews.
“So many amazing people have joined our communities – even if it’s just temporarily – who are going to be taking our values and sharing their values with us. It epitomises everything that we do as a city on a day-to-day basis, being able to give our voice to that.”
Andi promises Liverpool Pride will be a “spectacle”, but it also has to “mean what we know it’s so important for it to mean”, he says.
“No matter where you are in the world, you are affected by people wanting to remove our rights, wanting to not allow us to live our free lives as we should be able to – and that applies whether it’s here, in Ukraine or anywhere [else].”
Liverpool Pride takes place on Saturday (29 July).