Dark thoughts haunt LGBTQ people in Ukraine. A relentless Russian invasion continues, despite peace talks beginning.
If they win, a Russian occupation terrifies LGBTQ Ukrainians. In Russia, the ideological pursuit of “traditional values” dominates everything. It means anti-gay law, and persecution thanks to propaganda.
If this pursuit comes to Ukraine, it will un-do years of progress in the LGBTQ community’s fight for acceptance.
Like so many LGBTQ folk, Daniel Skripnik wants to flee. Unlike some that have been lucky enough to be able to, he isn’t allowed to leave.
He is liable for military service. Yet, because of his health condition, it would be impossible for him to serve. He’s stuck in a crack in the system.
Instead, he’s been filling his time by painting for peace.
Before the war, Skripnik painted musicians – from The Weekend to Britney Spears. But now, much of his centers around the Ukrainian symbol – the sunflower.
“Some people might think that I started to draw [the sunflower] because of the war. Yes, the sunflower is one of the Ukrainian symbols. And I visualize it now. But it also has a deeper meaning for me,” Skripnik tells me.
“As a child, in a small village in eastern Ukraine, I loved being in the middle of nature. My village is hidden in dense forests and surrounded by fields of sunflowers. I liked drawing them.
“Sunflowers fascinated me, but they were not just beautiful plants to me. They seemed like portals that took me to other dimensions, away from everyone and everything.”
Skripnik began painting sunflowers because of his memories. But now that reason has transformed into something much bigger than him.
“It was about something that came from my heart. It was about bad people and horrible memories. But now it is bigger than my story.
“It is not about darkness anymore – the sunflower represents light and bright souls. I feel like it’s blooming during this time.”
At his apartment block, Skripnik watches cameras of the hallways and local area. Though unable to join the military, he wants to do his part:
“Every day I do everything in my power. I help the residents of my house, my friends, our army.
“Protecting our building, patrolling the floors, and monitoring the situation around. Also buying food for territorial defense.”
“I guess we are united. People from the community are still in a horrible position but I want to believe that this light of unity can help us. I pray for it. Pray for Ukraine”
LGBTQ Ukrainians like Skripnik fear not only for their lives but the persecution of their identity under a potential Russian occupation.
The Russian regime has made no secret of its prejudice against the LGBTQ community. The country’s ‘gay propaganda’ law bans children from being shown content about our lives. It’s used as a de-facto ban on discussing LGBTQ life.
The horrors of the ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya stand out as a frightening event in recent Russian history. The violent genocidal attack on LGBTQ people in the region also shocked the world.
As Skripnik does what he can, this weighs heavy on his mind. Yet, he remains resilient.
“We need to stay strong and bold, because during this time you have no choice – dark thoughts haunt everyone.”
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The quotes in this story were subbed for clarity.