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Untold stories: experiences of Ukrainian LGBT+ refugees in the context of Russia’s military invasion

Culture and languages
Society and economy

Gender Studies Seminar Series. Guest lecture by Maryna Shetsova. Presentation of an ongoing research project on the lives of LGBT+ Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine based on the author’s fieldwork in Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

20 Mar 2023
10:00 - 12:00
J222, Humanisten, Renströmsgatan 6

Maryna Shetsova
Department of Cultural Sciences

Largely due to the effort of civil society activists and international human rights organizations, quite a few texts have been published on the situation of LGBT+ people in Ukraine during the large-scale invasion Russia launched on February 24, 2022. Rather predictably, LGBT+ Ukrainians’ vulnerability increased as the country’s situation worsened. At the same time, many articles published by the media also stressed the hard work of LGBT+ rights organizations and the growing visibility of LGBT+ people in the military. Furthermore, a recent sociological survey has demonstrated substantial improvement in societal attitudes toward LGBT+ people among Ukrainians. In July 2022, President Zelensky had to address the popular petition to legalize same-sex marriages in Ukraine that collected over 25k signatures in just a few days. In December 2022, the parliament of Ukraine adopted the law prohibiting, among others, hate speech against LGBT+ people.

Less is known and discussed, however, about LGBT+ Ukrainians who left Ukraine. There is no official data on the number of LGBT+ people who left the country, and little research have been done so far. It is often assumed that once they have left not-so-LGBT-friendly Ukraine, their situation in the EU member states will be better, especially considering the ‘privileged’ treatment that Ukrainian refugees have met. However, is it so?

The present talk is a presentation of an ongoing research project on the lives of LGBT+ Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine based on the author’s fieldwork in Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.  Drawing on in-depth interviews with more than 30 LGBT+ war refugees, it discusses the challenges LGBT+ Ukrainians face building their (temporary) lives abroad and the strategies they use to cope with their new realities.


Maryna Shetsova
Maryna Shetsova.

About the speaker: Maryna Shevtsova is a EUTOPIA Postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Arts, the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is also a Senior FWO Fellow with KU Leuven, Belgium (2021/2026, start date postponed due to EUTOPIA fellowship). She has MA in Gender Studies from Central European University and Ph.D. in Political Science from Humboldt University, Berlin. Maryna Shevtsova was a Swedish Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at the Gender Studies Department at the University of Lund in 2020 and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Florida, USA, in 2018/19. Her most recent publications include the book LGBTI Politics and Value Change in Ukraine and Turkey: Exporting Europe? (Routledge 2021) and edited volumes LGBTQ+ Activism in Central and Eastern Europe. Resistance, Representation, and Identity (with Radzhana Buyantueva, Palgrave Macmillan 2019) and LGBTI Asylum Seekers and Refugees from a Legal and Political Perspective: Persecution, Asylum, and Integration (with Arzu Guler and Deniz Venturi, Springer, 2019). In 2022, Maryna was granted Emma Goldman award for her engagement in feminist research and human rights activism.