Some LGBTQ Ukrainians are fleeing Russian occupation. Others are signing up to fight

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03/13/2022

LVIV OBLAST, Ukraine — A few weeks ago, Vlad Shast was sashaying in a slinky pink gown and thigh-high boots. Shast was working as a stylist, and performing on the drag queen circuit in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. That was before the Russian invasion. Now, Shast is pushing a grocery cart from shop to shop in Kyiv, filling it with supplies for soldiers on the front lines. “My life is like before and after,” Shast tells NPR. “My life has changed completely.” Even before getting called up for mandatory conscription in Ukraine’s military, 26-year-old Shast volunteered this month for Ukraine’s territorial defense force, a civilian corps that reports to the military. Shast is a prominent member of Ukraine’s queer scene, who uses they/them pronouns and identifies as nonbinary. They fear what might happen under Russian occupation. Inside Russia, LGBTQ people have faced persecution, even torture.

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