Gay dating app becomes lifeline for Ukrainians as users offer shelter to refugees
Gay dating app Romeo received an “incredible response” after it asked users to help people in Ukraine who may be fleeing the country.
The app launched a group called Shelter for Ukraine last week after Russia invaded the country, which quickly gained thousands of members.
Aimed at connecting those who “can offer shelter and assistance” to refugees fleeing the country, Romeo users began offering up their spare rooms or homes across Europe, from Czechia to Italy.
There have been offers from users willing to travel miles to the Italian border to collect those in need of shelter, as well as offers of sanctuary to Russians “who oppose the war and/or are fleeing from Putin’s government as a result”.A spokesperson for Romeo, which was launched in Germany in 2002, told Queerty: “When we heard the news of the invasion of Ukraine, like many, we wanted to do something to help.
“We are an international team, with people from all over the world. Many of us have experienced war and oppression.”Connecting people is what we do, so we looked at how we could use the platform to connect people in need, with our users who are willing to help.”
The app added that as many men in Ukraine have been forced to stay in the country and fight, the offer of shelter is “not only for men, it is for their parents, sisters, children.”Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, those in the country have faced the horrific decision of whether to flee the country, or stay and fight, with one queer teen telling PinkNews: “I don’t want to leave Ukraine… it’s my country, it’s my people.”Oleksandra – whose surname was withheld to protect his identity – added: “When this started, I was in shock… I didn’t know what to do, where to flee, would I even be able to flee, what would happen to my friends.”He explained that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could cause the country’s sparse, but hard-won LGBT+ rights to be jeopardised.
“I genuinely believe that it will keep getting better (for the LGBT+ community) in Ukraine,” he said. “I was thinking about moving to another country a few years ago but right now, I don’t want to leave Ukraine – even if it’s difficult, because it’s my country, it’s my people. I have friends here.”
He added: “Russia is also an incredibly queerphobic country – that’s a fact. When the invasion started, my flatmate said I would be more afraid about you if Russian people came here because they will kill your people first.
“It’s horrible, but we will make it. Queer people in Ukraine will have it better. I’m horrified, I’m anxious, but also I feel hope for my country.”
Lenny Emson, director of Kyiv Pride, told PinkNews that LGBT+ people, and wider Ukrainian society, is prepared to “step forward against the aggression”.
“On this point we are united,” Emson says. “It doesn’t matter what your gender identity is, your sexual orientation – all together, we are stepping forward.”