Andrew Kushnir once thought he couldn't be gay and Ukrainian. When he was growing up, it seemed as if there was no such thing as "queer Ukrainian" and, when he came out as gay, he "felt like a unicorn."
Years later, he has the privilege and opportunity to stand up for all LGBTQ+ Ukrainians, who are facing the threat of war and oppression from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. "Lots of queer people in Ukraine were erasing their phones, dating apps, they were clearing their phones of any friends' messages. They wanted to scrub out anything that would give away their queer identity," Kushnir said. "It was my turn to step up for them."
Kushnir is the founder of the LGBTQ Ukraine Fund, which raises money for advocacy in Ukraine. The group will be marching in the Pride parade on Saturday, July 25, 2022, on behalf of Kyiv Pride. Lenny Emson from Kyiv Pride told CBC news, "We are not only kind of the victims of Russian aggression as Ukrainians. We are kind of under more precise threat as LGBTQ people.
"On the other hand, we see hate crimes in Ukraine right now on the rise because of homophobes and transphobes that are around right now using this situation ... to hunt down the most visible members of the community."
LGBTQ Ukraine Fund is sellling a tshirt designed by LGBTQ Ukrainians with a traditional Ukrainian vyshanka pattern on the front and the message "Freedom is our tradition" on the back. Kushnir is very emotional over the chance to march on behalf of other LGBTQ+ Ukrainians like himself. "I think my heart is going to explode," he said.