The metro: A place for KharkivPride


KharkivPride took place September 17-25, 7 months after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Despite major challenges such as airstrikes and the risk of targeted attacks against the event, KharkivPride was able to successfully organise several Pride activities, ending with a parade in which over 30 people participated.

Photographs in the article: Christina Pashkina

In recent months, Kharkiv has been subjected to recurring missile attacks. Due to the risk of airstrikes, the parade took place in the Kharkiv subway. Activists, KharkivPride volunteers and residents from the city rode through all three lines of the subway together to make visible LGBTQI Ukrainians and stand up for freedom, equality and diversity. 

– Over the past six months, the subway has become not only a means of transport for city residents but also a refuge from war, a place where concerts and workshops are held. And now it is also a place of dignity – a place of KharkivPride, said Vira Chernygina, one of the organisers.

Several different activities were carried out during the week. Among other things, a demonstration was held to commemorate those killed by Russia. One of the victims was Elvira Shchemur, a KharkivPride volunteer. Among LGBTQI Ukrainians, Elvira’s death has become a symbol for those who have died as a consequence of the full-scale Russian invasion.

Equal marriage was a central theme of KharkivPride

Another event was the performance “The Right to Marriage Equality”. A car was decorated in a rainbow-coloured wedding theme and then driven through Kharkiv. As it was driving through the streets of the city, the car was greeted by smiles and honks, according to the organisers. The aim of the performance was to draw attention to the fact that same-sex marriage still isn’t legalised in Ukraine. In August, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised that the possibility of implementing same-sex marriage will be investigated. However, it is unclear when this will be possible since the Ukrainian constitution can’t be changed as long as the war is ongoing.

Same-sex marriage is an important issue right now for the LGBTQI movement in Ukraine. Equal marriage would mean that LGBTQI people could gain access to several essential rights. These rights have increased in importance because of the war. The right to bury your partner if they die is one such right. Similarly, the right to custody of the children of partners is also something the community is fighting for. Due to the war, there’s a higher risk of your co-parent being injured or killed, especially if they’re fighting at the front.

Sphere NGO, who organised KharkivPride, is one of RFSL’s partner organisations in Ukraine. You can learn more about them here.