Euro2012: Celebrating PRIDE in Donetsk, Celebrating PRIDE in Ukraine and Poland
Last night a historic first took place in Donetsk, Ukraine during the preparations for the semi-final tonight of the Euro2012: UEFA Football Championships between Spain and Portugal. Tonight is “the night of 27 June” 2012, 43 years on from “Stonewall” the precursor of PRIDE and the emergence of the LGBT+ people. The Virtual Embassy of the Rainbow Nation aka Clare B Dimyon MBE* hosted a unique celebration of PRIDE and identity attended by Patrick Gasser, Senior Manager of UEFA Football & Social Responsibility who joined with officials of the fans embassies of France, Spain and Portugal (and a random Austrian) and members of the Donetsk LGBT community to break open some excellent Ukrainian champagne, from locations across Ukraine, with labels creating a rainbow of Champagne for this special occasion to celebrate the birth of the Rainbow Nation on the night of 27/8 June 1969.
Together we celebrated that historic night in New York when LGBT people simply said “NO”…”No” to further harassment and humiliation by the New York police in the historic Rainbow Uprising at the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Street, New York. It was a year later when LGBT people in cities across the US took to the streets to celebrate that Gay* PRIDE was born.
Patrick Gasser of UEFA said: I am here to confirm our commitment to oppose ALL forms of discrimination, all homophobia and all racism. I am delighted to participate in the special celebration of PRIDE.
On this same date in 1978, in San Francisco, the rainbow flag was used for the first time after a collaboration between Gilbert Baker and Harvey Milk, who was assassinated less than 4 months later.
The national anthems of Poland and Ukraine were played and the special English hymn “I vow to thee my country” which can be sung by anyone of any nationality. It starts “I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above….” The 3rd verse contains the words:
“Her fortress is a faithful heart, her PRIDE is suffering”
These are words that I as a lesbian relate to and words which I believe many in Poland and the Ukraine might well relate to and could not be more appropriate to the struggles of LGBT+ people across central & eastern Europe.
28 June: Ukrainian Constitution Day
The party also toasted Ukraine because PRIDE shares this date with a younger PRIDE, that of Ukrainian Independence in 1991. 28 June is also Constitution Day in the Ukraine, celebrating the day in 1996 when the Verhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) adopted the Ukrainian Constitution following ndependence in 1991 from the collapsed Soviet Union. The Ukrainian Constitution guarantees human rights and responsibilities for ALL Ukrainian citizens.
Clare said: “We will be drinking excellent champagne from across the Ukraine with a message of love and hope and support to Ukrainian LGBT people to let them know that they are NOT alone. We are hurting from the assaults on Svyatoslav SHEREMET and Taras K a month and 3 days ago but we are also grieving the probably thousands of young LGBT people across Ukraine who have no English and no internet connection to make any sense of their identity. I believe the suicide rates to be catastrophic for our people. Today, we celebrate Ukrainian Independence and the promise of the Ukrainian Constitution and look forward to the day when LGBT people within the Ukraine can claim their full rights and responsibilities as Ukrainian citizens.”
“After the targeted assault on PRIDE Organiser (TARAS K) 3 days ago, we cannot but be realistic about the challenge ahead but I see in this coincidence that 27 June and PRIDE is like a “Constitution” Day the constitution of the Rainbow Nation, with our distinctive flag and culture and history, we are a people like any other people, we have no land because we are in every land.”
Rainbow Flags at Orange Parades (Dutch) in Kharkiv, Yellow Parades in Kyiv (Swedish):
“After seeing all these flags and t-shirts “on parade” in the streets of cities of Ukraine, maybe Ukrainian people don’t need to be so afraid of a “parade” or festival of identity. The Dutch ORANGE parades in Kharkiv were extremely popular, as was the rainbow flag and the rainbowing of Euro2012 Championship Mascots, Slavek and Slavko, with some Britsh lesbian in bad Russian calling out “Slavek loves Slavko!” to smiles and laughing and CHEERING and thumbs up from Kharkiv residents. There is no doubt of the challenge but also significant signs of openness and Ukrainian allies for LGBT people, who may currently be too afraid to speak up. As we Quakers say: “There was an ocean of darkness and I drowned in the light”.
Rainbow flags have been to the Kyiv Olympic Stadium, the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv and the Donbass Stadium in Donetsk under the warm protection of fans from the countries of the Netherlands, Sweden, France & Spain. In the fanzone in Donetsk I also “came out” to a Russian, who was a bit surprised for a bit and then… embraced me most warmly. We had spent a gorgeous evening together, he had insisted on buying me dinner and when he asked about my Polish husband, I could not lie to this dear man and said “my wife”, it took a few minutes to process as we maintained eye contact, I nodded and said quietly Da Ya Lesbian (Yes I am a lesbian) and he took me into his warm embrace. I have seen miracles in the Ukraine.
Wales has also made her own distinct contribution because Donetsk was founded by a man called “John Hughes” an engineer who founded Donetsk and brought football to the Ukraine with his fellow engineers. The special Welsh rainbow flag with dragon and the slogan “We love John Hughes” (in Ukrainian and Russian) is our special LGBT tribute.”
Euro2012: Arrangements in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk
Clare said: “I have seen snapshots but apart from one excessive taxi fare cancelled out by the Russian who insisted on buying my dinner, all the arrangements in each city have been good. Like John Hughes, I am an engineer and was in the Donbass Stadium in Donetsk and it was …beautiful. I think Donetsk has done John Hughes PROUD, I think he would be enormously proud of this city he founded and how far she has come in such short time after decades of suffering and economic and social degradation of the Soviet: Nazi: Soviet era, not to mention the serfdom (SLAVERY) that preceded it.
No country is without citizens who behave badly and make us ashamed. What I have witnessed, what the Ukrainian people have enabled is a festival of football where many people of many nationalities have come together, in co-operation and harmony. I have learnt so much, had to undo any number of prejudices. Yesterday I even met a Polish-Afghan, the day before I had breakfast with 2 Israelis, one European extraction, one African. The Ukrainian hospitality has been second to none and being Polish-by-marriage I have no doubt that Poland has lived up to Polish hospitality. I think Poland and Ukraine have done European Football PROUD, and I would like to pay tribute to all the ordinary decent people of Poland and Ukraine who have worked so hard to make this championship a success and have begged me to tell Britain that they are not like the Panorama programme.
Euro2012: London Olympics 2012
I was born in London and if the London Olympics is even half the success, we will have done well… and we started as a far richer nation, with a far more benign Poland.
As a Londoner, I took part in my first Gay* PRIDE parade in 1985 when some 5,000 marched/paraded/festivaled through London, this year 2012, London PRIDE, WORLD PRIDE will exceed 1 million participants, two weeks before the world gathers in London for the Olympics 2012. London Olympics will be the first ever LGBT INCLUSIVE Olympics with the first ever PRIDE House at a summer Olympics. As a Londoner I expect I will feel enormously PROUD of how far we have come.
As the Evro 2012 (Euro2012) slogan has it: “Making History Together” and I want to say a personal “thank you” to Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv (and the Ukraine) for the warmth of your welcome and a fabulous experience of international togetherness and friendship. I will be taking many beautiful experiences home with me…and I don’t even have a special interest in football…
but I have seen the beauty of how “the beautiful game” brings people together in a unique way and that we now compete on the field of football and no longer in a field of war. Last night the guy at the next table at the restaurant asked if I had been on Russian TV…apparently the Russians are rather touched and appreciate this English woman who says in school-girl Russian that she learnt Russian 35 years ago when everyone told her she was stupid she would never speak it…. a punchline that usually leaves everyone smiling! I have stories that would make a great Panorama programme!
I believe in the English value of “Fair Play”, “Fair-play” and a level playing field for ALL… NO to HATE, NO to Discrimination, No to Homophobia and NO to racism of any kind, including racism and prejudice towards Polish and Ukrainian people. “Fair-play” is a value that is central to “the beautiful game” of football, which originated in England and came to Ukraine via John Hughes.
“We love you John Hughes!”
Donetsk City Centre: the Fan Embassy of the Rainbow Nation protected lovingly by the fan embassies of France and Spain
 LGBT+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender people + : friends, families and anyone we missed out!