“I have lived in Kyiv for the last 7 years but I was born in Egypt and spent most of my life in Kuwait. Basically before the war started I was a refugee in Ukraine. I hold an Egyptian citizenship and as a gay person I couldn’t go back to the country because of the government and my family.
Originally I came to Ukraine as a student. My father was a very abusive person, both physically and mentally, and because of him I applied for protection status with the UN in Ukraine and I was in the middle of the process when the war started. Basically the reason to apply for it was my fear of persecution and death because I’m gay. My family is very close-minded and religious, so it would be dangerous for me to go back.
I’ve been through situations with homophobes and racists in Ukraine, but generally I felt very safe there. For the first time in my life I felt safe. Once in a while I received some homophobic treatment and very rarely racist treatment, but comparing to back home it was nothing. Basically for a few times I was called faggot on a street and that’s it. But even if there are some homophobes around you, you don’t feel it in general. No one physically attacks you in public. That’s mainly the reason I decided to stay in Kyiv.
I traveled through some Middle Eastern countries and generally speaking, it’s totally not accepted to be gay there. As long as I lived in Kuwait, no one knew about me. I never told my father that I was gay but I always that he knew and that’s why he treated me differently from my siblings.
The process of self-identification took a while for me. I was in the closet till I was 24-25 years old. It was difficult to trust others in this question, but now I’m like an open book. I don’t know how exactly it happened. Probably you are just going through life, meeting new people who accept you for who you are and at some point you finally feel free and you don’t care anymore.
About war. My roommate woke me up on the 24th of February, telling me that the war started. We packed our backpacks and left the apartment on the 25th. It was very terrifying. I’m pretty sure if I was alone, I would stay in Kyiv. We went to Ivano-Frankivsk because the train to Lviv was packed. It was impossible to get in.
I read a lot about racist treatment on the border and at the train station but didn’t personally experience any of this. I was on the Polish board by myself and I was even thinking that maybe it would happen there because before I was with a group of my Brazilian and Ukrainian friends but everyone was actually nice. It was a bit longer for me than for other people but it’s because I didn’t have a passport. I have the feeling that there was a lot of misunderstanding at the train station because it’s a war and everyone is panicking and not everyone is following the rules.
I would love to return to Kyiv. It’s my home. Berlin is where I’m staying now. It’s fun and amazing but it’s not Kyiv.”