We got a message from Benjamin and Michael Lemon asking for some information, and we think our readers will be interested, and may be able to help.
Benjamin and Michael have opened their home to Viacheslav (Slavik), a queer Ukrainian refugee, and are looking to support and help him however they can.
Can we start by asking Slavik to tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, why you left, and what brought you to Brighton and to Benjamin and Michael’s home?
(Slavik answered in Ukrainian and sent us the translation via Google Translate and we’ve edited the Google translation)
Hello, my name is Viacheslav, but my friends call me Slavik. I’m from Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Ukraine. I speak Ukrainian, Polish, Russian and a little English.
I was born in 1986. At that time my father was at war in Afghanistan and my mother worked in a factory. My grandmother looked after me and we grew food. I lived with my grandmother and sister. I liked to dress in my mother’s clothes and to sing in the mirror with a bottle of deodorant, but my uncle didn’t like this. He hit me and hung me on a rafter for a whole day.
I left Ukraine before the war started, I’ve never felt safe there. Being gay is very hard and I always ran away to Europe (where I feel safe). My dream was to come to England, I want to learn English and see your culture.
I found Ben and Mike on a rainbow refugee FB page. We started chatting on FB and WhatsApp. I feel these are my people and I’m not afraid to be myself with them. I can talk freely with them and feel safe and understood.
We applied for my visa and they became my sponsors.
I arrived three weeks later. Ben and Mike met me at the airport and we went to Brighton.
What do you think of Brighton?
I fell in love with Brighton. It’s a nice city, I like the beach and the people.
You can meet different people, they always smile and are friendly. It’s a very relaxed and interesting place.
I hope to meet many friends here and live here for my life.
Benjamin and Michael, can you share what it is that you are asking for help with?
Slavik has been a wonderful addition to our household. He brings interesting stories and a different perspective.
We want to support and welcome Slavik in anyway we can.
Since joining us in May, he’s started English classes, explored most of Sussex (on the buses) and has spent a lot of time visiting the local beaches and towns.
Due to his basic English, he is finding it hard to find employment and make new friends.
During the time he’s been here, his English has improved leaps and bounds, but he still struggles.
He is very sociable and wants to make new friends in the Brighton & Hove area.
So here is the ask from our readers:
Are you queer and Ukrainian? Or do you know of any other queer Ukrainians locally that we can introduce to Slavik?
Would it be a good idea to set up a MeetUp group to bring local queer Ukrainians together for friendship and support?
The Ledward Centre would be happy to facilitate the setting up of such a group, and to host any get togethers, so please contact email@example.com with information or suggestions.
Thanks to Slavik, and to Benjamin and Michael for getting in touch. Hopefully we, and you, can help.