“I had a quiet and easy going life in Donetsk. And I believe that’s how it feels living in a hometown. All my friends were pretty much open minded although I never felt secure enough to come out to them. I actually recently received some homophobic comments from my friend in Donetsk when I posted a story on my IG with a flagpole of three flags: Ukrainian, LGBTQ+ and European Union. So I was in the closet my whole life living in Donetsk and only started seeing guys in Kyiv.
In Kyiv I finally made a decision to be honest with myself and people around me, so I started to see guys to understand if that’s really what attracts me more. I didn’t come out earlier because I didn’t feel secure enough around my friends, and not having any queer friends around me made this period of my life quite tough. In Kyiv I started my life from a blank page and I decided to do whatever I felt like without having any guilt or shame.
Since I moved to Budapest, the gay prides in Ukraine gained much more popularity, more support by the government, and Ukrainians started to freely discuss them on social media and share their opinions. Overall the government became pro-European and more democratic since Maidan. These aspects definitely uplifted local queer life and made people more open.
I really like Budapest. It’s a very beautiful and easy going city with a nice crowd. As a visual artist I found it very suitable to live and work but I never had a feeling that I wanted to stay here for the rest of my life. It is a transitional period for me to understand myself better, to connect with more people from around the world, because Budapest is a very international town. I met many friends from around the world and learned a lot from them. Living in Budapest made it easier to travel and explore Europe and its history. I honestly highly recommend that everyone leave their countries for some years and experience how people live in different cultures, how they interact and communicate with each other. The culture in the eastern part of Ukraine is quite different from the western (Lviv) or southern (Odesa). I always felt a lack of empathy or tolerance in my hometown. I could see this even more clearly when I started to travel around western or central European countries.
But there is a dark side of Hungary. It’s politics. Unfortunately, for the past 10 years, the government took over almost all independent media, shut down liberal universities and passed unnecessary, homophobic legislation. This destroyed the reputation of the country within Europe, especially in the circle of intellectuals who support open societies. And for me it’s always been like a Russian echo which keeps irritating more and more. Because I know how misleading and sick it can be.
The Fidez, the ruling party that was selected for another 4 years (will be 16 in total) is using anti-LGBTQrhetoric that is quite similar to the Kremlin. They promote illusionary family values and forbid any kind of LGBT education in schools. And what is more unacceptable is that they still mistake homosexuality for pedophilia. This shouldn’t be present in the European Union, because it’s complete nonsense in a modern society.
And we clearly know that it’s being used in political favor. Some members of Fidez are actually gay; for example, Jozsef Szaer got caught in a gay orgy party in Brussels in 2020. This incident was really loud and revealed the hypocrisy of the party.
I haven’t experienced any serious or physically harmful homophobia, just basically verbal. But my best friends, who are a queer couple, had this weird and unpleasant situation with their landlady. So they moved into a room, and when the owner realized that they are queer, she asked them to leave. It was quite shocking and honestly disgusting.
I also know some other friends who were verbally abused on the streets. But at the same time I keep noticing many gay people holding hands while walking the streets, in the market, parks. So I would say the center of Budapest is quite safe, but the remote districts are a bit uncertain in terms of tolerance.
About war. I used to live in Kyivsky district, Putilovka. It is a remote area which is closer to the Donetsk airport – the part of Donetsk which suffered the most in 2014-2015 due to the active fighting around the airport and Avdіyivka.
In 2014 I was studying in Architectural university in the 3rd year. By the time I finished my exam week, in the beginning of July, the situation in my hometown had gotten more weird and unpredictable. The new authorities started to implement some new rules for civilians, including curfew. This made me decide to take a train to Odesa where I had relatives. I was completely convinced that I’d come back to Donetsk in a couple of months and continue my studies. But unfortunately the situation became worse by the end of August, so I had to plan my future outside of my hometown. I took all my savings (it was around 200 dollars) and moved to Kyiv to continue my architecture studies. After a couple of years I relocated to Budapest.
My sister suddenly called me on a December evening in 2014, and through tears she told me that we have to get our mom out of Donetsk. She said that the missile hit the living room of our grandmother’s house when our mom was in the building. It was dreadful to hear this horrible news. But she immediately assured me that everything was okay with our mom. She survived this incident absolutely intact. Although I am pretty sure it was very traumatizing.
I visited Donetsk twice after moving to Kyiv. In 2015 and 2016. But I never felt it was the same. The energy completely changed. People were different. It was absolutely a weird and not very nice experience.
My parents are divorced and they both spent the last 8 years in Donetsk. As well as my other relatives. Unfortunately all of them refused to leave, mainly because of financial insecurity”