Our Clare – Pride Solidarity Update

An update from our friend Clare B Dimyon MBE MSc (BEd), Pride Solidarity. Clare has been a speaker at the London Vigil against Hate Crime since it started in 2009 and is passionate about doing what she can to promote Pride Solidarity across Europe. Her work gives voice to the thousands upon thousands of Europeans living in countries where LGBTQI people are struggling for their basic human rights, doing what she can to make a difference for the better. One of the amazing proud lesbian women that we have the pleasure of working with.

1)   UEFA Euro2012 Football Championships: Creating History TOGETHER 

  • Rainbow Flag at Euro2012 Semi-Final in Donetsk, UKRAINE
  • On the night of 27/8 June… the night of…STONEWALL 
  • 15 minute PRIDE parade in Donbass Stadium after the match!

When UEFA Euro2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine chose the slogan “Creating History Together”, little could they know what they were inspiring… but Clare B Dimyon MBE was suitably inspired and this resulted in a PRIDE Parade in the magnificent Donbass Stadium, in Donetsk, the Ukraine, for 15-20minutes after the semi-final between Spain and Portugal, two Catholic countries who both have EQUAL state marriage.

Clare laughs as she says: “As soon as I knew England were drawn with Ukraine in Group D, I knew that Ukraine would be the destination of the PRIDE Solidarity Tour 2012.  I laughed again as I saw in this Group D, Sweden (YELLOW and BLUE) and then France (BLUE), both countries who I have worked with in C&E Europe to lend support to LGBT people and their families and friends.  “This is just what Ukraine needs” I thought!

I was too stupid at first to notice Group B, the other group playing all their 1st round games in Ukraine… otherwise known as the “Group of Death” …with FOUR out of FOUR LGBT-friendly countries, …was in fact the Group of LIFE[1] for LGBT people in the Ukraine, a potential LIFELINE for LGBT people, especially those in isolated places with minimal or no internet access, with minimal or no English, who lack the information to understand their feelings, who wouldn’t even recognize the acronym “LGBT”.

When I saw that the semi-final was in Donetsk on the night of 27th June, the night of STONEWALL, the birth of PRIDE, I knew I had to be there and thanks to a GIFT of a ticket to the semi-final, I was not only in town but in this this amazing touch-line seat a few metres from the corner flag with no less than Ronaldo steaming towards me!

LOOK at the face of the man in RED to the LEFT – this was COMMON!

Not everyone understood the Welsh variant of the Rainbow flag…(all part of the cunning plan!). I had trouble getting the flag past the hyper-vigilant stewards who were fulfilling their excellent training and who were worried the dragon was a Nazi symbol.  In my faltering Russian, I told them,  ”It is a special flag for Donetsk, it is for John Hughes, he was British Engineer, he built your city… he was from Wales, this dragon is from the Welsh flag, it is for John Hughes” “John Hughes, (1814 – June 1889)… these were the magic words in Donetsk, for they are very proud of their city, very proud of the man who was central in its foundation, the man who in fact brought football to the Ukraine…with his fellow engineers who liked nothing better than a game of footie on their days off.

I ran to my seat, half way around the Donbass stadium, it felt like, I was late, well no news in that!   Unbelievably I found myself in a seat …on the touchline, no more than 10 metres from the corner flag with Ronaldo heading towards ME, for REAL, as in “in the flesh”, it was stunning!  And there I was with a rainbow flag (variant), raising it at every opportunity towards the pitch and towards the rest of the fans behind me.

I am engineer, I am very proud to be, taking in the stadium around me I knew John Hughes would be PROUD of his city, a city that suffered so badly… under Tsarist, Stalinist, Nazi and then Soviet terrors and I could believe the proud boasts that the Donbass Stadium is if not the best one of the best stadia in Europe. John Hughes would have every reason to be proud.

As the game went on and in the breaks people approached me “Mozhno foto” with eyes gleaming, that’s Russian for “Can I have a photo?” Russian…that makes them Ukrainian or Russian…. People wanted a photo with this flag, in this situation they couldn’t read the slogan “WE love John Hughes” and Ukrainians in the crowd and some LGBT friendly people came for photos… and a crowd of Swiss including at least one gay man… plenty of people knew exactly what was going on.

At the end of normal time, no result so another 15mins each way… more possible exposure for the rainbow flag <whoopee> great result! And then penalties and with luck at this end of the stadium!

In extra time I received a call from my LGBT contact in Donetsk but he wasn’t saying anything coherent, his English is fine but there was just no sense and the roar of the crowd meant I couldn’t get any clues.  I had a nasty feeling but no information.  I begged him repeatedly to send me SMS and as no SMS arrived I was left with a very sinking feeling but there was simply nothing to do.  I tried his number but couldn’t get through, I was simply out of credit.  I hoped against hope that it was not what I was imagining it to be, I hoped against hope that he was alive and safe.

SECOND & THIRD PRESS RELEASE TO FOLLOW

Penalties produced a Spanish victory with all the usual Spanish kind of celebrations, it was so PRIDE, so I sang and danced AND WAVED MY FLAG with the best of them.  The Spanish Fan Embassy has taken very good care of the LGBT Fan Embassy in Donetsk, we owe them everything… El Viva Espana with all my lungs was no effort at all! And the French who had they won, would have kept us under their wing too….and I can sing the Marseillaise (even if I can’t spell it) with the best of them “Marchons, marchons..” with all my heart and did in the quarter finals before the Spain v France match!

And one thing led to another and soon I was running up and down the stand behind the goal, the full width of the pitch across up across down, rainbow flag (variant on high) singing “el viva Espana” and yelling HAPPY PRIDE, collapsing in places and explaining to bemused stewards that I was a “Babushka lesbian” and was really far too old for this sort of thing… resulting in even more bemusement!

And then… one of the stewards came over, his other duties complete, a slight young man “Mozhno foto?” and I looked him in the eyes and said “Mozhno mnogo fotki”, (as many as you like).  We hugged and posed for photos taken by another steward and I showed him the MBE and told him: “It is a present from Queen Elizabeth it is for the LGBT of central & eastern Europe, it is for you.” And we parted with grins all round… and this connection alone had made my whole 6 week visit to Ukraine for the Euros completely worth it. [There are a number of similar stories]

Within one of the so-called “Stadiums (Stadia BBC) of Hate” I could not have been safer because of the fantastic arrangements that were in place, they invited fans with their flags and hats and silly costumes…and I came with my flags and hats and silly costume…to a city that could not have more connection with St George (the name of the Anglican Church) and the Dragon (a motif I found throughout the city).  We had found a point of CONNECTION…

PRIDE Solidarity (with almost zero interest in football) is delighted to have participated in the UEFA Euro2012 Football Championship and to have truly got into the spirit of things by

 CREATING HISTORY TOGETHER

CREATING PRIDE HISTORY TOGETHER


[1] Resulting in rainbow flags being carried in a sea of Swedish yellow TWICE in KYIV and in a sea of Dutch ORANGE TWICE in Kharkiv – see previous releases

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About mhealey

Founder of 17-24-30 No to Hate Crime Campaign
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