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A gay Ukrainian military couple engaged only days ago is being pulled apart to face the fear and heartache of combat alone

A picture of Pasha and Vladyslav, a gay Ukrainian couple fighting in the war together.Vladyslav (left) and Pasha (right).

Pasha Lagoyda

  • A gay Ukrainian military couple that got engaged only days ago is heading off into combat. 
  • Pasha, 21, and Vladyslav, 30, met a year ago and fell in love as war consumed their homeland.
  • The couple told Insider that while war is tough, they haven’t let go of hope.

Throughout the past year, thousands of Ukrainians have left their homes and former lives to fight against Russia’s invasion. They’ve had to say goodbye to families and friends, unsure if they’d ever see them again. And as bloody battles rage on, Ukrainians have been forced to watch in horror as the war tears apart the country they once knew.

One couple has navigated much of the war with an added layer of concern: They’re both fighting in the Ukrainian military. 

In this war that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives, tragedy can strike in an instant. Pasha and Vladyslav, a newly engaged couple, are on their way into combat, but they won’t be together. It’s a tough time for the pair as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his campaign, though it faces struggles, to break Ukraine’s defenses and enforce his unwanted vision for the country’s future.

They worry for each other’s safety, partially because they serve in separate battalions and areas. “It is very difficult,” Vladyslav told Insider, but if they were able to see each other more, or possibly fight alongside one another, it’d make the days a bit easier. Currently, Vladyslav’s trying to switch to Pasha’s unit. “We’d like to do the job together,” he said, but “it’s hard to change battalions.” 

A military land vehicle lies wrecked by a shelling on April 12, 2023 in Bakhmut, UkraineA military land vehicle lies wrecked by a shelling on April 12, 2023 in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Viktor Fridshon/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

The young gay couple began dating last year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

They told Insider, courtesy of translator Maxim Potapovych, that they met on a dating app. That’s pretty common for many modern couples, and at first glance, Pasha and Vladyslav’s relationship is like any other.

They share pictures together on Instagram, some selfies of them making dinner and cuddling. In the past year, they’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. Vladyslav turned 30 last September, with Pasha commemorating 21 just a few weeks later. “You’re already 21 years old, what can I say…” he wrote on Instagram, “So as not to be dead by 22.”

The harsh realities of their situation in a war-torn country are hard to miss.

One picture, posted by Pasha, shows the two holding hands while wearing their military uniforms. Another post details a vacation they took together. Pasha wrote, “These 10 days of my vacation have been better than half of my life before the war! You know when you weren’t around before, I didn’t care about life or death, whether to be shot or shoot.”

Just days before the pair deployed for combat operations, Pasha and Vladyslav got engaged. Pasha said there was sort of an ultimatum in play: it was either get engaged or leave one another. They chose to stay together, and they celebrated as much as possible before the war called them back.

On Friday, their last day in Kyiv, Pasha and Vladyslav told Insider it’s been difficult to fight in the war because it constantly tries to pull them away from one another. 

And the combat is intense, no matter how much time you’ve spent on the battlefield. Pasha says the fighting feels like entering a “volcano.” He said that “if he could describe it simply,” he would say that a “normal, city person” has suddenly been thrown into a new environment where the heat, pressure, and sweat of battle can be overwhelming. 

A picture of Vladyslav and Pasha after their engagement.Vladyslav and Pasha got engaged just days before returning to combat.

Pasha Lagoyda

Pasha joined the military in 2021 and is now a gunner. Vladyslav joined last year. Though neither told anyone they were gay, Pasha recalled experiencing homophobia and discrimination from the other soldiers in his first few weeks at a training camp.

Before Russia invaded, Ukraine’s stance on LGBTQ rights was murky. Gay marriage and adoption weren’t legal, and although they still aren’t, President Volodymyr Zelensky has since suggested same-sex civil partnerships could be revisited after the war. There was also varying public opinion on gender and sexual orientation, although anti-discrimination laws offered some protection, and homosexual relations weren’t legal in Ukraine until 1991. 

The atmosphere, especially in the military, has improved, the couple told Insider. There’s a mutual respect of sorts, a realization that they’re all fighting for the same cause regardless of sexual orientation.

That said, LGBTQ personnel don’t have the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. When Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun submitted a draft to legalize same-sex partnership in early March, she noted that if an LGBTQ person is injured in combat, their partner can’t make decisions about their medical treatment

Ukrainian soldiers fire targets on the front line in the direction of the city of Ugledar, Donetsk, Ukraine as Russia-Ukraine war continues on April 18, 2023Ukrainian soldiers fire targets on the front line in the direction of the city of Ugledar, Donetsk, Ukraine as Russia-Ukraine war continues on April 18, 2023

Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Pasha and Vladyslav have talked about this issue, too.

In a post for LGBTIQ Military — an organization of Ukrainian LGBTQ active military members, veterans, and volunteers fighting for equal rights — the couple expressed their support for legalizing same-sex partnerships. They wrote that while they want to be able to marry, have children, and live happily together, there are also more immediate concerns about not being legally recognized as a couple. If one of them is injured, the other has no say in their hospitalization and care. If one dies, the other won’t be able to claim their body, they said. 

It’s a stark reality of both the war and LGBTQ rights. But Pasha and Vladyslav said they’re hoping for a better future for themselves. They see the war as a fight against how Russia oppresses people, how it treats its LGBTQ people — “full of discrimination, killing activists,” Vladyslav said. 

Winning the war would mean winning freedom, both for Ukrainians and LGBTQ people like Pasha and Vladyslav. When Insider asked about the coming months of combat and how the couple is feeling, Vladyslav held Pasha closely and said: “We strongly believe Ukraine will win.”

Read the original article on Business Insider