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A Resilient Spirit

Vitalina Koval is made of strong stuff As a visible and vocal human rights activist in her home town of Uzhgorod, she has to be. The country has a large percentage of conservative and homophobic politicians in government, while Russia, with its gay propaganda law, and the rise of the far right in neighbouring Poland and Hungary exert strong influences.

For most LGBT+ people, their decision to ‘come out’ is usually accompanied by trepidation – a fear of not being accepted. Tie that with a genuine fear for your own safety, indeed your own life, and you can imagine what a brave decision it was to live openly in Uzhgorod. Vitalina says, “When was 25, decided to come out to my family. For me it was a powerful decision because I’d been struggling to do it since was a teenager. I had tried to do it a few times but there was a very homophobic response and had a lot of emotional problems after that. I want to be open, honest, who am. It awakened my human rights activism. I started organising queer parties in my town. Of course, they were hidden parties. From this background knew almost all active LGBT+ people in our town. A year after, in 2016, one of the biggest LGBT+ organisations in Ukraine came to our town to discuss if we were interested in opening a community centre. We decided could be a good coordinator.”

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