Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.

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Eyes on Eastern Europe: Queer Svit

A series on UUSC’s partners in Eastern Europe.

By on June 23, 2023

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, more than 62,000 people have died, nearly 60,000 have been injured, and roughly 14 million have been displaced. UUSC immediately mobilized its resources in support of those who were impacted by the invasion, culminating in 10 partnerships with organizations in Eastern Europe. All of these organizations are committed to helping communities facing compounding forms of oppression during this conflict—meaning we focus our resources on communities already facing severe oppression even before the invasion (people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, etc.). This series will highlight those partners and the work they do.

Even when the scourge of war upends people’s lives, it sadly does not uproot the prejudices and biases already existing in their hearts. Often, the stress only serves to strengthen whatever harmful ideas about others they hold. Lack of resources—real or perceived—can bring out the worst of us. 

Racism, homophobia, and transantagonism impact which evacuees receive help escaping danger. To address this inequity, two Black non-binary people— a Ukrainian transwoman, and a Ukrainian gay man—came together to found Queer Svit. Queer Svit’s aim is to assist BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people impacted by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

The organization does this by providing key services:

  • Evacuation, temporary housing, and relocation support;
  • Legal support; and 
  • Physical and mental health resources

Queer Svit’s work is vital. BIPOC and LGBTQI+ evacuees typically receive less help, meaning safe arrival to a safer place could take weeks or even months. The destabilizing nature of war plus being in an unfamiliar country makes people vulnerable to other types of violence and exploitation. Last year, the organization was able to help over 1,000 people either escape or prepare to evacuate. 

UUSC funding helps Queer Svit expand the help it provides. Supplementing the salaries of full-time staff and holding team-building events further equips the organization to meet the needs of its service populations. Efforts to rework its marketing campaigns and build awareness will also be increased. 

In addition to supporting its current functions, the grant will allow them to research legal status processes in different countries. Queer Svit operates in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.  More resources help equip the organization to add to its list of places to seek legal status for its clients.

The relationship between Queer Svit and UUSC continues to benefit Ukrainian LGBTQ+ people of color to find safe haven from war. Many can start a new, safer life where they receive the respect they deserve. 

To learn more, watch an interview between UUSC staff member Suhra Nahib and Anna-Maria Tesfaye, co-founder of Queer Svit. To help UUSC continue building its relationship with Queer Svit and resourcing the services it provides, please consider making a donation

Image Credit: Adobe

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