Polish and Ukrainian activists march for LGBTQ rights in Warsaw

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The Ukrainians were among tens of thousands of LGBTQ activists who took part in the Polish capital’s Pride Parade on Saturday, in a country hosting tens of thousands of Ukrainians who fled the Russian invasion.

The march, however, began with a minute’s silence for two people killed in a shooting near a gay bar in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, in the early hours of Saturday.

Norwegian police have arrested a man suspected of “Islamist terrorism” over the shooting, which also left 21 injured and prompted the cancellation of Pride in Oslo.

But Norway’s ambassador to Poland, Anders Eide, said love and justice would “prevail”.

“Our fight for equal rights for all and our support for the LGBTQ+ community is unequivocal and will remain so,” he told AFP at the start of the procession.

Kyiv Pride director Lenny Emson thanked Warsaw Pride and the Polish community for including Ukrainian LGBTQ activists in their parade.

Emson said the Ukrainian LGBTQ community wanted their rights to survive but for that to happen, the war in Ukraine had to end.

Poland hosts by far the largest number of Ukrainian refugees in the European Union – more than 1.1 million according to the latest UN figures.

Warsaw Pride takes place with the full support of the city‘s liberal mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski.

But other parts of the country, ruled by a right-wing government, are less welcoming to gender or sexual minorities.

In 2020, the international non-governmental organization ILGA-Europe ranked Poland 44th out of 49 European countries for respecting LGBTQ rights.

Ukraine came 39th.

Kyiv Small Gathering

In Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, dozens of remaining members of the LGBTQ community held a small rally at a downtown nightclub.

Inside, a couple hugged wrapped in a yellow and blue Ukrainian flag as dancers performed on stage to the sound of the Village People’s “YMCA.”

“What’s most important is to accept people as they are,” said 28-year-old Victoria Myhoula. People should first and foremost focus on “what we can do today to help our country”.

Nearly four months after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the European Union on Thursday granted the war-torn country candidate status.

“If we move closer to the European Union, we have to show that society is open” in Ukraine, added Myhoula.

Nightclub sponsor Oleksiy Krasnenko, 26, said he was proud to contribute part of his earnings to the Ukrainian military to help repel the Russian invasion.

“Ukraine is a free and open country,” he said, while admitting there was some discrimination.

During the last Kyiv Pride before the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, police deployed en masse as far-right and Orthodox Christian activists staged counter-protests.

Although low-key, Saturday’s event nevertheless attracted a small group of young men dressed in military-style clothing, who sparked a brief scuffle outside the venue. The police quickly dismantled it.

(AFP)

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