For over 10 years, Ukrainian lesbian couple Alina and Uliana kept their relationship a secret. While they lived together in Kyiv, they told everyone in their lives they were simply best friends. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, everything changed.
The couple shared their story with GCN. After what they described as Putin’s “terrorist state of the Russian Federation” invaded their home country, they fled, arriving in Ireland last St. Patrick’s Day. It has now been a year since they left home, and they have since been able to tie the knot.
“After some time, we learned that in Ireland, we have the same rights as heterosexual people,” they explained.
Ireland is known for being very LGBTQ+-friendly and indeed has strong protections for LGBTQ+ people. Same-sex marriage is legal, there are anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination laws in place, and it is legal to change one’s gender without undergoing surgery. A survey from Eurobarometer found that 80% of Irish people accept same-sex relationships and that 65% support trans people changing their legal gender.
Upon arrival, the couple reached out to the advocacy organization LGBT Ireland, which helped them find a host family in Dublin. They lived with a lesbian couple from Estonia and slowly began to realize they didn’t have to keep their relationship so hidden.
“In Dublin, we met many friends, and the LGBT Ireland community was very important to us.”
On November 16, 2022, Alina and Uliana got married with their host couple as witnesses.
“Together with the guests we drank champagne by the river, after the registration of our marriage,” they said. “We had nine guests and our hosts prepared a surprise dinner with Ukrainian colors and food… We felt very happy that day.”
They emphasized that they never believed this is something they’d be able to do.
“Once upon a time, we dreamed of going to an island and perhaps having a fake ceremony, and now we got married in Ireland. We never dreamed it would be real for us!”
The couple worries for their parents, who are still in Ukraine and who still don’t know they are romantically involved. At least, they don’t acknowledge it, the couple said.
Nevertheless, they miss them and are praying to reunite with them again soon.
“We strongly believe that the war will soon end with Ukraine’s victory. We hope that peaceful people will be safe and that we will see our parents.”
They praised “the strong spirit of the Ukrainian people and their desire to fight for their independence and development, as well as the support of other nations.”
“Maybe after the war, it will be better for gay people in Ukraine,” they posited. “Like Ireland, we hope. It is very important for us.”
Ukraine decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual encounters after declaring independence from the failed Soviet Union in 1991, but the World Values Survey found that only 5.6% of Ukrainians find homosexuality justifiable. 62.4%, on the other hand, found it unjustifiable.
The country has not legalized marriage equality, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently voiced a desire to look into legalizing the status of same-sex couples.