Andrei lives in USA and since 2020 he is a corrdinator of Russian LGBTI online community Children-404

Tell us a little about yourself: where are you from, when did you leave Russia, and what are you doing at the moment?

My name is Andrei Kuznetsov. I left the USSR in 1989 for my master's degree, after which I stayed in the US. I'm reading the monologues of some LGBT activists who left Russia in a hurry over the last year, in which they share their contradictory feelings: wanting to go back home, while the understanding in their minds that they need to build a new life in a new place, and I partly recognize my own past in these struggles. My mental adjustment also took years, but I was luckier, because my visit to my homeland in 1991 was a shock therapy that rid me of many illusions and doubts forever.

How did it happen that you became the coordinator of the Children-404 project and since when?

I've been following the Children-404 project since it was launched in 2013, commenting on letters. Since I did this fairly regularly, I was noticed by the project team when they were thinking about rotating the roster in 2019. After that, I worked for a while as a moderator, i.e. I made sure the comments followed the rules of the group. Then I was tasked with publishing the emails coming to the project. In 2020, one by one, the members of the team that had been running the project more or less permanently up to that point moved on to other projects. The new team is made up of people living outside of Russia, which allows us to continue publishing letters from teenagers.

The project originally appeared in VKontakte. VK has always been under the control of the Federal Security Service (FSB), and by the end of 2023, after the emergence of legislative measures to suppress the LGBT community, we had to completely remove the Children-404 project from VK. Now we work on Telegram and Facebook.

What do you think is the purpose and value of this group? What is its aim at the moment?

The group's goals have not changed: they are to ensure that LGBT teens are not abandoned in the toxic Russian environment. Before the restrictions on public discussions, this could be achieved through feedback from those who had overcome the same problems at an early age. Now, the obstacle is fear on both sides - those who are afraid to ask for support and those who are afraid to help.

Since you joined the group, how do you think the stories of the heroes, their tone, their content, have changed over the last 4 years?

Today, teenagers are less likely to write to us for publication. They are afraid. Unfortunately, it has also become more dangerous to respond to letters with words of support, especially for those who are in Russia, and especially critical for adults working in education and other budgetary organizations. We are extremely grateful to those who continue to respond to the teenagers' letters of support and encouragement. On March 11, the group will be 11 years old, and we keep hoping that this is just a milestone in a long journey of mutual support.

In the past, helping experts often used to write in their responses to letters: You are brave, you have found the strength to ask for support and help, this is the right first step towards problem solving. Alas, today it is much more difficult to say this. For instance, it is no longer possible to tell transgender teenagers that they will be able to get qualified support for gender transition when they turn 18 - not in this country, unfortunately.

Are there any stories that have particularly touched or moved you?

Recently there was a letter from a girl from Ukrainian territory under Russian occupation who wanted to know how to get in touch with an organization that could help her and her girlfriend escape to Europe.

Transgender teens who are taking on hormone therapy in the absence of competent help.

Gay and lesbian teens who are finding it increasingly difficult to breathe in an environment of increasing by-the-hour acidity.

How can we help these teenagers and your project?

We want these teens to keep on believing that they are not alone against government bans. If you want to help, you will find us here in Telegram and on Facebook

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