“We can’t go back”: Russian gay family in refugee in Spain | Russia
A Russian lesbian family who have received death threats after appearing in an advertisement for the VkusVill food chain says they feel safe in Barcelona and accepted as they are.
The family were targeted in a hate social media campaign after they appeared in the ad. The company then apologized and replaced the photo with that of a heterosexual family.
“We don’t feel safe in Russia because of its anti-gay laws,” said Mila, the youngest daughter in the family. “Many discussion forums have posted our Instagram accounts and email addresses. There were a lot of stupid but also terrifying comments, like the image of an ax covered in blood.
Her mother Yuma and partner Zhenya appeared in the ad with their two daughters under the slogan “Recipes for a Happy Family”, but the company quickly withdrew the campaign after receiving a mass of hate mail.
After VkusVill issued an apology, saying the photo’s publication showed unprofessionalism on the part of its employees, the family was bombarded with hateful phone calls and emails on social media, which included threats from rape of the eight-year-old granddaughter of Yuma.
“We don’t have anti-discrimination laws [in Russia] so we have no protection, ”said Mila. “We can’t go to the police.
Mila said the family did not have bad feelings towards VkusVill. “It’s just a business in a capitalist country with a homophobic government,” she said. “We are not mad at them, we are happy to have been allowed to speak for ourselves and represent our LGBT family because LGBT people in Russia are alone and abandoned by their families. They are afraid and are not accepted in society, so this was an opportunity for us to say that we exist.
In 2013, Russia passed the “Gay Propaganda Law” “aimed at protecting children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values” and banned the “promotion of non-traditional sex with minors” in the press and in line.
The law has forced teachers and health professionals to censor themselves on what they say about non-traditional families and has been used to shut down websites that provide information and services to LGBT youth across Russia .
“The Spanish newspaper El País published an article about us and a lot of people in Spain said that we should come and that we would be safe here and that we deserve better,” she said. “Plus people said the LGBT politics were good here and there was a lot of support.
“We cannot come back to the current regime because we will not be safe,” Mila said. “Russia is home, it’s in our hearts, and we want to be with our people, but the safety of our family comes first.
“We are not sure about our future but we feel safe in Barcelona. Here we can be ourselves and live like a normal family. My mother and sister hope to get married here and have children, which we cannot do in Russia.
“We are happy to show our happiness and to show people in Russia that gay people who do not have this happiness can see that it can be real.”