Queer Ukrainian couple join front line to fight Putin with LGBTQ+ unicorn sewn into uniforms
A brave queer couple who volunteered to join the front line in Ukraine have sewn a unicorn patch onto their uniforms as a defiant symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.
In an interview with Reuters, volunteer soldiers Oleksandr Zhugan and Antonina Romanova have spoken about their decision to join active duty, stating that Russia “wants to destroy our culture… we can’t allow this to happen”.
Speaking to the news agency, Zhugan explained that the practice of wearing a unicorn on their uniform began during the 2014 conflict when Russia invaded the the Crimean Peninsula.
It was “when lots of people said there are no gay people in the army”, he explained. “So they [the LGBTQ+ community] chose the unicorn because it is like a fantastic ‘non-existent’ creature.”
Zhugan and Romanova, who is non-binary, were preparing for their second three-month combat rotation when they spoke to Reuters. They joined the fight against Russia after war broke out in February of this year.
Romanova said: “I just remember that at a certain point it became obvious that we only had three options: either hide in a bomb shelter, run away and escape, or join the Territorial Defence. We chose the third option.”
Romanova added that during the couple’s first tour of duty in Ukraine, her fellow soldiers all respected her gender identity.
“There was no aggression, no bullying… It was a little unusual for the others. But, over time, people started calling me Antonina, some even used my she pronoun,” she said.
“What Russia does is they don’t just take our territories and kill our people. They want to destroy our culture and… we can’t allow this to happen.”
Zhugan and Romanova previously told PinkNews they joined the Territorial Defence Forces because felt like they didn’t have “any other choice”.
“It was really a very comical situation because we are as far from the military as we can possibly be,” Zhugan told PinkNews.
“I’ve talked to lots of people, to lots of volunteers, and they all say one thing: ‘While we are alive, we are not doing enough.’”
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When asked to clarify his comments about being alive, Zhugan explained: “Because doing enough is to die for your country, I suppose. And while you are alive, you are not good enough.”
It has been more than 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, forcing an estimated 14 million Ukrainian people to flee their homes.
The latest UN figures estimate that 4,031 civilians have died since Russia first invaded Ukraine, including 261 children.
Lenny Emson, director of Kyiv Pride, told PinkNews: “We need to understand that, if we want to stop this war, we cannot evacuate the entire population of Ukraine… Unfortunately, it’s not possible. I’d say the community understands that a lot.
“We really believe in our military, our Ukrainian army. We have the spirit behind us, and this is keeping us going.
“We’re here altogether, and together we will win.”