News (World)

Right-wing family moved to Russia to escape LGBTQ+ people. Then Russia froze their bank accounts.

Arend and Anneesa Feenstra with two of their children.
Arend and Anneesa Feenstra with two of their children. Photo: Screenshot

A right-wing Canadian family was so disgusted by their country’s LGBTQ+ acceptance they decided to sell everything they owned and emigrate to Russia to live under Vladimir Putin’s brutal anti-LGBTQ+ authoritarian regime.

Soon after they arrived, their bank accounts were frozen, leaving them “frustrated” with only a small amount of cash to provide for their eight children.

Last spring, YouTubers/dairy farmers Arend and Anneesa Feenstra sold their farm and left Canada in search of both “a better spiritual life” for their children and “better farming opportunities.” In a video recorded in May 2023, Arend said he was “disgusted” by “the homosexual flags everywhere” in his hometown. “This is one of the main reasons why we want to leave this country,” he said. “It is openly celebrated and worshipped almost.”

The Feenstras settled on Russia as their new home. “It’s a Christian nation that is wanting conservative Christians to come,” Arend said in a video recorded in September. He described reporting on Russia in “Western media” as “propaganda” designed to convince conservative Christians like himself that emigrating to the country is not an option.

In an interview with Russian state media earlier this month, Arend again made his reasons for relocating his family clear. “Canada’s not the same country it used to be, and we didn’t feel safe for our children there in the future anymore,” he said. “There’s a lot of left-wing ideology, LGBTQ, trans, just a lot of things that we don’t agree with that they teach there now, and we wanted to get away from that for our children.”

The Feenstras should feel right at home in Russia. Beginning in 2013 with the passage of legislation banning so-called “gay propaganda” in the presence of children, Russia has been steadily increasing political hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community. In 2022, the law was expanded to effectively outlaw all public expressions of support for LGBTQ+ people, and last year, at the behest of Putin’s Ministry of Justice, the Russian Supreme Court declared the “international LGBT social movement” an “extremist organization.”

It appears, however, that the Feenstras were unprepared for everything their move would entail. Shortly after arriving in Russia, they were informed that their new Russian bank account had been frozen. In a February 8 video, Arend explained that he’d been informed that the family had run afoul of a Russian banking law requiring them to prove where the funds they’d deposited came from. In addition to money from the sale of their farm and other assets, the Feenstras also deposited a substantial sum they made via donations from supporters of their YouTube channel, with no documentation as to the source of that money.

The original version of that February 8 video included a clip in which Anneesa Feenstra tearfully vented her frustration.

“I’m very disappointed in this country at this point,” she reportedly said. “I’m ready to jump on a plane and get out of here. We’ve hit the first snag where you have to engage logic in this country and it’s very, very frustrating.”

Russian media picked up on the story, detailing the family’s predicament and reporting Anneesa’s quote.

As Daily Kos noted, such public criticism can be risky in a country where social media influencers have been arrested, fined, and forced to apologize for content that authorities have deemed objectionable. The Feenstras quickly removed the February 8 video, reposting it with Anneesa’s comments edited out. Arend also posted an apology video, claiming that his wife meant that she was frustrated with the situation, not with Russia, and blaming the language barrier for any misinterpretation of her words. He also noted that the family intends to remain in Russia.

In a February 11 video, Arend said the family’s bank account was no longer frozen.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated