Berlin, Germany – Having visited the German capital twice before, Polina Punegova, from the Russian port city of St Petersburg, had often told her Ukrainian partner Yulia Maznyk that she would love Berlin’s architecture, graffitied streets and spirit of open-mindedness, and that they should visit together. But following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Moscow-based couple found themselves in Berlin in less than holiday-like circumstances. They were visiting Budapest when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. “Everything was a mess,” says Punegova, 27, referring to the confusion that dogged them in the first days of the war. At the airport, they discovered that their flight had been cancelled and that there would not be another, recounts Punegova, an IT project manager, while speaking at the Berlin community space of Quarteera, a German volunteer-led organisation supporting the rights of LGBTQ Russian speakers.