Kristine Garina (she/her), President of the European Pride Organisers Association, reflects on our movement’s support for colleagues in Ukraine.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

This Friday marks twelve months since Russia launched its latest appalling attack on Ukraine, directed by Vladimir Putin.

Every day of those twelve months we have been met with the most appalling imagery in the news, showing us the brutality of Putin’s war and the devastating impact on beautiful Ukrainian towns and cities. Many thousands of people have been killed, many more made homeless, and vast areas of the country are under illegal occupation. LGBTI+ people in Ukraine, who never achieved many of the rights that others in Europe can take for granted, are being denied opportunities to say goodbye to their partners, or have a say in their funerals. Promising advances towards equal marriage are a long way from becoming a reality.

As I reflect on the anniversary, I am also reminded of the incredible – herculean, in fact – effort that Pride organisers and LGBTI+ activists have undertaken across Ukraine to support our community. Our members Kharkiv Pride and Kyiv Pride have, alongside organisations such as Insight and NASH SVIT, switched to providing humanitarian assistance and care to our community members. Organisations in neighbouring countries have rallied to support refugees arriving from Ukraine. In Poland, Warsaw Pride worked with Kyiv Pride on a huge ‘March for Peace’ that took place in the Polish capital in June, with thousands of Ukrainians participating alongside many of us who travelled from across Europe to show support.

Representatives of Kharkiv Pride and Kyiv Pride – including our board member Lenny Emson, until recently the Director of Kyiv Pride – have travelled the world to talk about the situation and make people aware of the way in which LGBTI+ people are being affected by the war. At our conference in Turin in October, and at the InterPride conference in Mexico two weeks later, presentations by Anna Sharyhina from Kharkiv were met with a standing ovation. In almost 20 years of involvement in the Pride movement, I have never seen such an abundance of solidarity.

Our own financial appeal, launched the day after this invasion, has so far raised more than €100,000 for organisations in Ukraine, with every cent we raise being regranted directly to these organisations. Pride organisations across Europe, large and small, have made hugely generous donations, and hundreds of ‘Prides #StandWithUkraine’ flags that we sold are flying at Prides across the world – and I will be flying one in the Mardi Gras Parade at Sydney WorldPride on Saturday. The funds are being used now to support these organisations’ humanitarian efforts, and they will be used to support their organisational rebuilding once Ukraine win the war.

The human condition causes us to quickly lose interest in things that do not directly affect us, and so it is vital that in 2023 we keep focus on Ukraine, continue to raise funds, and never stop waving those blue and yellow flags. The foundation of our movement is solidarity and never in its 50 year history has that been more important. As we all reflect on the horrors of the last twelve months, make a resolution on how you will support Ukraine this year – and then act on it.

Kristine Garina has been President of the Association since 2015 and was organiser of EuroPride 2015 in Riga, Latvia. She is also co-chair of Association of LGBT and their Friends Mozaika, and Riga Pride. Follow her on Twitter @KristineGarina.