Fragile as Glass: LGBTIQ+ people in Ukraine facing the Russian invasion.
Fragile as Glass: LGBTQI+ people in Ukraine facing the Russian invasion.
In Ukraine, the LGBTQI* -community has recently been more visible than ever. This is threatened, since the Russian army started invading in February 2022. In the Russian Federation, there is a homophobic and transphobic social climate. According to US officials, there is a list of LGBTQI*-activists to be arrested circulating amongst Russian troops. Therefore several queer Ukrainians go to war despite homophobic incidents in the army. Others try to continue their political work or simply cope with life in the country at war. Various young queer Ukrainians say their sexuality now plays a lesser role.
"I worry more about getting killed by a Russian rocket than being judged for kissing my boyfriend", Yehor (20) says. On the first days of the invasion, the film student fled from Kyiv to Lviv, in the west of the country. Yehor’s family lives on the front line in Nikopol. Besides leaving home, the war affects his libido, he says. Relationships though become more important and intense, he adds. After six months, he moved back to Kyiv with his boyfriend. Following a dispute, Yehor crashes at friends for months, until he finds an affordable flat. The ongoing war is palpable in the city. Repeatedly missiles strike. Electricity is scarce and power cuts are supposed to uphold the functionality of the highly damaged system. Many flats are cold, as heaters use electric power.
Sasha (21), Yeva-Lotta (19) and Sasha (22) from Lviv share the burden. Just 80 kilometers from the European border the power supply has long been unreliable. Yeva-Lotta says she is mostly angry. Sasha reports she feels much older and adultish now, but psychologically suffers from the war. Air alarms, lack of electricity, and dark shelters stress her out, she says. She is a physiotherapist and treats soldiers coming from the front. The ongoing war has shown the three how precious each day and time with the people they love is, they say.
Not everyone has an option to find a shelter. Therefore the NGO KyivPride which advocates for queer peoples’ rights, runs a safe space in the capital. Nonbinary Edward Reese (37) is a project assistant at KyivPride. The war had a direct influence on Reese’s plans for transition. Top surgery was planned in Kyiv in March. Upon the invasion, Reese fled to Denmark and had the surgery in Malmo, Sweden, in May. In October, Reese returned to Kyiv. "When you might die every day, it's important to have valid documents. It's the main issue for me being trans in this war", Reese says, wishing to continue with the transition. Reese hesitates about starting hormone therapy because the hormones could become inaccessible at any time. The transition is once again at stake.
“Fragile as Glass” is a long-term photographic essay following the fates of different queer realities in Ukraine. The work aims to not only show the typical photos that dominate during war times. A big thank you for the support during the realization of my project goes to the members of my journalist collective Freelance Underground. The
Photoessay was awarded the Residence Prize at the Portraits Hellerau Photography Award.
The photo series was exhibited at the "Helsinki Photofestival" in 2023
. Most recently, the essay was honored at the LensCulture Emerging Talents Award
and will be exhibited as part of the winning exhibition in New York this year. (2024) The photo book of the same name will be by Kettler Verlag
at the beginning of April.