Gay couple fled from Russia to Moldova due to war and homophobia

Screenshot from NewsMaker YouTube channel

For many months now, Valery and Valentin have been living in Valentin's homeland, Chişinău, the capital of Moldova. After fleeing Russia due to the war and mounting homophobia, the couple is adjusting to being together without worrying that they could be arrested for being gay. In an interview with Moldovan media outlet NewsMaker, they talked about their experience of living in homophobic Russia, how Moldova is (not) different in this sense, how their escape was hastened by the declared mobilization, and how in Chişinău, for the first time in their lives, they participated in a Pride event and even submitted an application to register their marriage. Global Voices is republishing the interview's video with shortened transcripts with permission from NewsMaker.

The video starts with a fragment of Vladimir Putin's statement from 2020, where he says that young people would be able to choose their sexual preferences and orientation in Russia.

However, Vladimir Putin had lied — yet again.  In 2020 there had already been a surge in homophobia in Russia. The first anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law (which prohibited mentioning LGBTQ+ relations to those under 18 years old) was adopted in 2013.  A law that prohibits any mention of LGBTQ+ relations to anyone in any setting (vaguely defining anything LGBTQ-related as ‘propaganda’) was passed and signed by Putin in 2022. Now, an anti-trans people law has also been passed. Thus, the Russian government has been fuelling homophobia for years.

The protagonists of this story share how homophobic state propaganda influences ordinary people.  They shared that one of their neighbours attacked them twice for no reason, as it turned out, it was because they were gay.

Because of all the hatred and repressive laws, and because they are against Russia's invasion of Ukraine and do not want to be forced into the military, these young men decided to ask for asylum in Moldova. While Valentin was born in Moldova and had every right to live there, Valery had to go through a challenging process to get there.

The story of their asylum was not straightforward. One of the men, Valery, was detained at Chisinau airport when he was trying to escape the military draft (Valentin was already staying in Chişinău by that time). Valery was supposed to join him but was denied entry at the airport. After his partner's detainment, Valentin called the Bureau of Migration and asylum seekers of the Republic of Moldova for help, and they explained that his partner could ask for asylum while at the border. So Valery did so and was allowed into the country, where they have been living since September 2022. While life as asylum seekers is never easy, the men say that they feel much more free in Moldova:

У меня полностью пропала какая-то фоновая тревога здесь, есть ощущение спокойствия; здесь есть ощущение безмятежности; здесь есть ощущение Свободы.  Ты чувствуешь это, когда ты просто выходишь на улицу. Когда ты смотришь на небо, когда ты видишь людей вокруг.  Здесь просто все действительно намного спокойнее, размернее. и свободнее ощущается, это очень-очень приятно. Вот это считывается и в людях это считывается, просто на уровне каких-то ощущений, которые ты улавливаешь, здесь это очень здорово. Также мне очень нравится, что люди вовлеченные, в том числе ты видишь, как страна улучшается как будто бы с каждым днем здесь.

Here, I've completely lost the anciety that was in the back of my mind.  Here, there's a sense of calm, there's a sense of tranquility. Here there's a feeling of freedom. You feel it when you step outside. When you look at the sky, when you see people around — everything here is just truly much calmer, more orderly, and freer. It feels very, very pleasant. That's something you can sense, and it's also evident in people, it's just at the level of certain sensations that you perceive. Here, it's really great, too. I also really like that people are involved, including— you see how the country is improving each day.

Although Moldova has been a candidate EU country since June 2022, there are still some legacy homophobic legislations in place.  One of them is that Moldova does not allow same-sex marriages.  Valery and Valentin applied to receive a marriage certificate but were denied.  They plan to take the issue to court and, hopefully, create a case so that their partnership would be declared official and give them the same status and rights as a married couple.

They explained their goal to municipal administration workers who questioned why the men would need to officially get married:

Мы объяснили, что то что нам нужно – класс зарегистрированный, что дальше мы понимаем что нам откажут, потому что законодательство сейчас не предусмотрено для подобного рода отношений.  Мы хотим с этим отказом обратиться в суд и как бы чтобы нам выделили грубо говоря вот эти вот партнерства гражданские То есть как бы речь даже не про брак.  А В первую очередь про партнёрство которые позволят нам распространить права Э друг на друга Ну то есть совместное владение имуществом а-а совместные какие-то покупки чтобы меня допустили там до самое простое в больницу если с ним что-то или со мной случится чтобы мы друг другу смогли попасть как не чужие люди друг другу.

We explained that what we need is a legally recognized status, and beyond that, we understand that we will be denied because the current legislation does not allow for such relationships. However, we want to challenge this refusal in court and, in a way, to establish these civil partnerships, so to speak. In other words, it's not even about marriage primarily, but rather about partnerships that would allow us to extend rights to each other. Well, such as joint property ownership, joint purchases, so that I could be allowed, for instance, into the hospital if something happens to him or to me, so that we could be there for each other as not strangers.

 The full interview of the couple is available on NewsMaker's website and also on their YouTube channel.

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