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A Resilient Spirit

Visiting Ireland in connection with Amnesty International, the inspiring LGBT+ and women’s rights activist, Vitalina Koval, spoke with Peter Dunne about the fight against homophobia and an ineffective government in Ukraine.

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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About GCN

In this issue of GCN we talk about the fact that we all live on planet earth and right now our home is in crisis. To that end, a member of Extinction Rebellion Ireland, who will co-host our event Mayday, speaks about their journey to awareness. We have a series of interviews with people who have made changes in their lives which will help the planet. Mr Gay Ireland speaks about overcoming childhood trauma, while activist Vitalina Koval talks about the situation in Ukraine. Inside, we look at life after Direct Provision and we celebrate the fine folk behind LOOK (Loving Our Out Kids). On the arts side, we highlight shows in the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival and artist Brian Teeling talks about his new exhibition in IMMA. It’s time to save the planet, people, join the rebellion!