Russian tennis champ Daria Kasatkina has opened up about the relief she’s felt since coming out this summer, as well as the how that and the war in Ukraine has affected her ability to see her family.
The 25-year-old came out last July, revealing her relationship with Russian Olympic figure skater Natalia Zabiiako.
“To be honest, it helped me. I felt less pressure,” she told The Guardian in a new profile earlier this week. “I put this pressure out of my shoulders because when you have to think about tennis but also to think about some deep things inside your head, it’s just not good.”
“I remember after saying all these things, I just felt much better. That was one of the best decisions of the [past] year and I’m happy with the outcome,” she continued. “And thanks to the people who were next to me, supporting me.”
Kasatkina has also been outspoken in her criticism of Russia’s war with Ukraine. Her comments on the war and her sexuality have made it difficult to see her family in Russia and friends in Ukraine, she says.
“I have so many friends and people I know from Ukraine and hearing the stories, what they’re telling me. It’s painful because I’m thinking, imagine if I’m in their spot,” Kasatkina explains. “It’s very tough. And it’s been almost a year living in these circumstances. I want this to end as soon as possible, but unfortunately it’s not depending on us. They’re my friends and I want to show them love and support because it’s very tough. For them, it’s more difficult.”
In December, President Vladimir Putin signed a law expanding the already-existing prohibition on LGBTQ+ “propaganda.” It effectively outlaws any public expression of LGBTQ+ life in Russia by banning “any action or the spreading of any information that is considered an attempt to promote homosexuality in public, online, or in films, books or advertising.”
That makes it difficult, even dangerous for the openly gay Kasatkina to return home, meaning family and friends in the region must come to her. She says she was able to see her mother a month ago but has not seen her father in two years.
“You never know how the situation is going to turn out. But I realize that you don’t have to look too far forward because you don’t know what’s going to be around the corner. You don’t know what’s going to be tomorrow,” she said. “For most people, it’s important to have the support of family, of friends. It’s been tough because … my friends, my family, they couldn’t travel, first because of COVID, then the war.
“It’s difficult that I cannot see the people I love, often. Actually, I can see them almost never,” Kasatkina said. “I didn’t see my father for two years. But it is what it is. It’s life, unfortunately. I have to say thanks that it’s not a worse scenario. I’m just happy they’re healthy and I have them.”
Despite the hardship, Kasatkina said she has been surprised by the support she’s received from her fellow athletes. “This topic is very sensitive, so I was ready for some negative reaction, but there was nothing like that,” she said. “I’m very thankful because that makes me feel so good. Some of the players were coming to me, sometimes they’re still coming to me, to say ‘yeah, it’s cool’ or ‘congrats’ to me. That’s nice.”