Amid Ukraine conflict, a new LGBT refugee safe house

Olena Shevchenko (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Olena Shevchenko (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The Ukrainian LGBT support organization Insight has opened a shelter for LGBT people who have escaped from the conflict-plagued areas of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
Olena Shevchenko, executive director of Insight, said that the organization has opened the shelter in a four-room apartment in a suburb of Kiev.
It is currently occupied by one lesbian, one gay man and four transgender people, Shevchenko said. Insight, a Ukrainian feminist queer organization that connects LGBT, feminist and anti-censorship movements, provides the refugees with food plus psychological, legal and social support.
More people would be housed if more resources were available, Insight said.
Already an additional four people have sought help and more are expected, Shevchenko said, because the situation for LGBT people in the troubled regions has worsened, seemingly daily.
Interior of Insight's Kiev-area safe house (Photo courtesy of Insight)
Interior of Insight’s Kiev-area safe house (Photo courtesy of Insight)

Finding landlords willing to rent for the project has been difficult, because stigma and hate towards LGBT and refugees is high, Shevchenko said.
Insight is seeking additional financial support for the shelter project. For more information, contact Shevchenko at director@insight-ukraine.com.ua.
A recent BuzzFeed report on Ukraine stated:

“Ukraine’s conservative, industrial east has never been an easy place to be LGBT. In Soviet times, it was a crime. Today many there follow the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church, which condemns homosexuality. In the coal mines that drive the region’s failing economy, the worst insults are crude anti-gay slurs. And as eastern cities have slipped out of Kiev’s control and casualties mount, many LGBT people feel increasingly under threat.
” ‘When local law enforcement bodies have stopped their work or gone over to the side of the separatists, local homophobes have worked their way in,’ [one LGBT woman in eastern Ukraine] said. ‘We are afraid to speak to the police and we are afraid to leave the house, insofar as we may not return alive.’
‘Like many pro-Russian groups, Donetsk’s separatists see LGBT rights as fundamentally incompatible with a Slavic, Russian Orthodox worldview.’ “

In 2012 and 2013, Ukraine’s parliament came close to passing a law against homosexual “propaganda” like Russia’s, but has not done so.
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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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