...do not give up and do not despair, do what you think is the right thing to do. Russia will definitely be free.
Nadezhda is a journalst, director, LGBT-person and volunteer. In 2022, she had to leave her home city of Saint Petersburg and go to Germany.
Please tell us about yourself: where are you from, how old are you, what did you do before you moved to Germany and what do you do now?
I'm from Saint Petersburg, 40 years old, before moving to Germany I was a co-director in a film production, now a freelance journalist in The Insider and member of Allianz für ein freicheitlich-demokratisches Russland - Nürnberg.
Tell us about a volunteer project you are involved in. What are the aims and objectives of this project and yours personally?
Before I moved I helped Ukrainian refugees to leave Russian territory for Europe and collected humanitarian aid. Now we are collecting aid for the AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine), we are also collecting humanitarian aid for Ukraine; I give free consultations to Russian citizens with humanitarian visas and to people from Russia applying for political asylum. I help Ukrainians as a volunteer.
I have never been involved in LGBT activism: previously (in Russia) at the request of my wife, and now I am concentrating on helping Ukrainians. My fight was to be not afraid and speak out: I ran an anti-war Facebook account, Instagram, and I came out. I helped Ukrainian refugees, wrote about it and offered links to our private chat room in Telegram. I had 150 Russians join it. I don't know if the reach was big, but about 1,000 people read our posts every day. In each interview I was openly saying that Putin is a murderer who started an aggressive war and that Ukraine needs to get its territories back within its recognized borders. I had to move to Germany and lose my favourite job to become a “social worker” for the first time in my life. Consequently, my help in Russia has come to a complete halt. Everyone for whom the war was a monstrous catastrophe can never be the same as they were before the war.
There is a common perception that LGBT activism in Russia is a way to gain political asylum in the West. What would you say to this?
To answer this question, we need to hear the truth from everyone who has been in LGBT activism and then applied for asylum in Europe or America. In Russia, LGBT activism is associated with great personal risks, so it is an extremely dangerous way to seek asylum.
How did the gay propaganda law in Russia affect you and your family personally?
When the last legislative wave was passed, we were already in Germany. After the first law, my wife forbade me to engage in any kind of LGBT activism and to do public coming outs because she feared for her daughter's safety.
Do you personally know anyone who has suffered persecution in the Russian Federation?
As I am constantly among the anti-war activists in Germany, I have got to know a lot of people personally during these 9 months.
Why did you eventually decide to leave, what was the last straw?
After my post about the TV Russia-24 fake video content went viral, I was approached by dozens of journalists for comments. I thought it was important to fight within Russia and perhaps inspire others by my example. But in the middle of summer 2022, it became clear to me that I was basically fighting windmills. And I became disillusioned with many of my filmmaking colleagues. I was disgusted to be around them and tried to pretend during filming that there was no war.
Why did you choose Germany?
Because Germany gave us a humanitarian visa, which makes life a lot easier than applying for political asylum. Also, Germany is LGBT-friendly and finding a job here will not be a problem. Germany's social support has pleasantly overwhelmed me.
Have you encountered Russophobia in Germany?
I think the only evidence of Russophobia came from me, as there are a lot of Russian-speaking “putinfersteers” (German: Putinversteher—someone who understands Putin) living in and around Nuremberg.
Have you encountered homophobia in Germany?
No. Only the bewilderment of the dormitory neighbours, the so-called “latecomers”.
According to your feeling, what is the level of homophobia there in general?
It certainly exists, but unlike in openly homophobic countries, it is forbidden by law to speak disrespectfully in public. We cannot get inside people's heads and change their minds. But we can demand that they keep their thoughts to themselves.
Why do you think Germany has been able to defeat homophobia, especially domestic homophobia, and Russia has not?
The people themselves are the same. In Germany, in Ethiopia and in Russia. They are guided by the basest and most primitive instincts. The government's job is to suppress the human being and make him a better version of himself.
Our state has not just failed this mission, but in 23 years it has managed to pull out all the worst from the people, to stir up the sludge from the bottom of their souls. And the stagnation, stupidity, ignorance, and aggression came to the fore and were propagated by the media that had been hijacked by Putin. Germany after the war was divided by the Allies and not abandoned to its fate. The inhabitants were able to make their conclusions and live in a democratic society which monitors, among other things, the moral image of its citizens.
Why do the Russian authorities benefit from keeping society homophobic?
In order to maintain the right level of consolidation and aggression in Russia, you need external and internal enemies. The external ones are NATO, Europe-Gayrope, the United States. The internal ones are the “fifth column”, “enemies of the people” and LGBT. This is how they contrast the “spiritual” Russia with the “spiritless” West. When “threats” exist, it is easier to hold on to power.
How do you see the future for the LGBT community in Russia?
Right now, my hope for democratic change in Russia is too slim. My fear is that there will be a total collapse of the LGBT community and a return to the criminalisation of “sodomy”. But we all hope for a quick victory for Ukraine and the fall of the regime. We should not think that the Ukrainians will come and solve all our problems, on the contrary, there will be reparations and Russia could go back to the Middle Ages.
How can people help your project?
We collect donations and use them to help the AFU and Ukrainians.
What would you like to wish for activists from Russia and volunteers, especially internally displaced persons?
It is quite difficult to do something without expecting an immediate response and benefit. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't fight. If you have the strength, you can help by personal presence and volunteering; if you don't have the strength, but you have money, they are always needed. If you have neither strength nor money, don't let yourself be destroyed. Let's all live to see the regime fall and Russia liberalised.
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Our stand on the Russian invasion to Ukraine
Russia started the war against Ukraine. This war is happening from 2014. It has only intensified on February 24th 2022. Milions of Ukrainians are suffering. The perpetrators of this must be brought to justice for their crimes.
Russian regime tries to silence its liberal voices. Russian people against the war exist - and the Russian regime tries its best to silence them. We want to prevent that and make their voices heard.
Connection is crucial. The Russian liberal initiatives are hard to read for European public at times. The legal, social and historical context of Russia is not always clear. We want to share information, build bridges and connect the liberal Russia with The West.
We believe in dialogue, not isolation. The oppositional powers in Russia will not be able to change anything without the support of the democratic world. We also believe that the dialogue should go both ways.
The choice is yours. We understand the anger for the Russian crimes. It is up to you whether you want to listen to the Russian people standing against this.