We were here
More than 330,000 Ukrainians took part in the Anti-Terrorist Operation in eastern Ukraine.* No data exist on the number of LGBT+ persons among them. Far-right groups and people who share conservative views strongly believe that they do not exist in Ukraine at all. That belief is often used as an argument against holding human right events and Marches of Equality. The “We Were Here” project is aimed at shedding light upon individuals who are contemporary Ukrainian heroes, on the one hand, and on the other hand are ignored by the majority of their fellow citizens.
LGBT+ community representatives became central figures of the project “We Were Here.” They were engaged in the ATO and currently take part in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) as soldiers and volunteers. Collisions, conflicts, and merging of identities are reflected in a series of portraits.
Most of the protagonists have to wear camouflage not only during their service lives, but in casual life as well. They usually have to hide their identities not only in the military but also in civilian life, being afraid of mocking and negative feedback. Concerned about anonymity, some of them use aliases.
Within this group are different points of view: some speak up for Marches of Equality, others say that it’s better not to provoke the far right. The only thing that unites them is their service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, active participation in the volunteer movement, and their sexuality and gender identity. These issues are still taboo, both in such typically masculine structures as the army and in Ukrainian society in general.
Anton is a Ukrainian artist and photographer based in Amsterdam. He works in the genres of photography, video, mixed media installations, performance, and interventions. Anton chooses themes related to the LGBTQ community, memory, loss of identity, violence, and the possible role of photography in this. Research interests: forgotten queer history of Ukraine, the policy of removing queer people from national memory, and their invisibility in the present day.