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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Gay rights activist among latest known victims of Ukraine war | Ukraine

Elya Shchemur

A gay rights activist from Kharkiv, Shchemur was killed during the Russian bombardment of the city centre, her colleagues at Kharkiv Pride said on Thursday. She was killed at the local territorial defence office where she volunteered, they said.

“Elya was an activist and a patriot: she participated in all possible actions and democratic events of Kharkiv. Together with Elya, we went through three Kharkiv Prides and three women’s solidarity marches. Elya was actively engaged in human rights interventions and pride performances,” the colleagues said.

“She inspired and motivated not only our team but all volunteers around. People followed her into her struggle for freedom and equality. And when she smiled, everyone smiled back. Elya was one of the first Kharkiv Pride volunteers that joined the Kharkiv defence office. She was brave and courageous. A patriot and a hero. And this is how we will remember her and never forget.

Oksana Shvets

Oksana Shvets
Oksana Shvets. Photograph: Twitter

Shvets, an actor, was killed in a rocket attack on a building in the Kyiv, according to the theatre company of which she had been a member since 1980.

The performers talked of their “irreparable grief” as they announced the news of her death on Thursday, and vowed never to forgive the Russian forces who had invaded Ukraine. The Kyiv Post, an English-language news outlet, referred to her death as “murder”.

According to an obituary in the showbusiness magazine Variety, Shvets had been honoured with a “merited artist of Ukraine” award for her work in theatre and was known for her performances at the Ternopil music and drama theatre and the Kyiv Theatre of Satire, as well as for her work in several Ukrainian feature films.

James Hill

James Hill
James Hill. Photograph: Facebook

The American was on one of his regular visits to Ukraine to spend time with his Ukrainian partner, Ira, who has multiple sclerosis, when the Russians struck. Hill, originally from Mahtomedi, Minnesota, stayed behind even as the bombs fell around him in the northern city of Chernihiv.

Those Russian bombs eventually took his life, his relatives have now learned, though it is more or less all they have been able to piece together about his death.

“He was not going to leave Ira’s side in her condition. Jim was in Ukraine this time because he had gotten medicine from the United States and had found a doctor in Chernihiv that would treat her,” Hill’s sister Katya told CNN, describing her brother as the “helper that people find in a crisis”.

She said Ukrainian police had told them he died during artillery fire, but the US embassy had provided no specifics. The family have been unable to find out where his body is and have been equally unsuccessful in contacting Ira’s family.

“The hardest thing that we’re going to have to go through is not having that kind of closure,” Katya said.

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