Ukraine’s armed forces and learnt how to fight to stop Russia ‘destroying their culture’. Oleksandr Zhuhan used to work in the theatre with his partner Antonina Romanova, both 37, before the war.
In 2014, the couple fled to Kyiv from the Crimea when Putin illegally annexed the eastern peninsula. But they found themselves fearing for their lives a second time on February 24 as Russia sent their troops into Ukraine.Oleksandr and Antonina spent two days hiding in their bathroom before deciding to do something – despite neither of them ever using a weapon before.
Antonina, who identifies as non-binary with she/her pronouns, said: ‘I just remember that at a certain point it became obvious that we only had three options: either hide in a bomb shelter, run away and escape, or join the Territorial Defence (volunteers).
We chose the third option.’ Oleksandr added: ‘Because Russia doesn’t just take our territories and kill our people. They want to destroy our culture and we can’t allow this to happen.’ The couple were worried they might experience discrimination and homophobia in the army but they found ‘there was no aggression or bullying’.