Helen Globa, co-founder of Tergo, a support group for parents and friends of LGBTQ Ukrainians, was in her apartment in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha on Feb. 24 when Russia invaded her country.
Globa and her neighbors sought refuge in a makeshift bomb shelter in their apartment building’s basement. Globa’s son, Bogdan Globa, who lives in New York with his husband, Harmilee Cousin, told her to leave on March 2 because her diabetes had caused her health to deteriorate.
Helen Globa rode her bicycle to a bridge that Ukrainian soldiers had blown up in order to stop Russian tanks from using it. Her son’s friend met her on the other side.
“I was afraid of sliding down into the river,” Helen Globa told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview. “The stress empowered me, and I managed to cross the bridge.”
Helen Globa said Ukrainian soldiers greeted her on the other side of the bridge.
“I was very happy to meet them,” she said. “They were men who you could rely on, who you could trust. I was crying when they instructed me how to behave in case if I heard some shooting or some bullets flying or maybe even some bombings.”
“I was crying,” added Helen Globa. “It was the first time during these seven days because when I was hiding in my basement, I wasn’t able to eat or to think about anything, or cry.”
Her son’s friend drove her to the Hungary-Ukraine border the next day. A man from Munich drove her and two other people to Budapest.
Helen Globa spent the night at a hotel near the Hungarian capital’s main train station. She told the Blade that she was afraid to leave her room, even to get something to eat.
“During those bombing days in Bucha, I guess I acquired some nervous disorder,” said Helen Globa.” Even in Budapest when I was in a safe place, when I was in a quiet place, in the evening I had a strong feeling of fear, unreasonable fear.”
Helen Globa on March 6 flew from Budapest to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and reunited with her son and Cousin.
“I said to them, ‘Guys, you saved my life,’” said Helen Globa.
The Globas and Cousin flew to New York on March 6. Helen Globa is currently living with a PFLAG family in Manhattan.
“I wish to go (back to Ukraine) tomorrow if I could,” she told the Blade. “My heart is with Ukraine.”
“I have a kind of guilt that I am not with them, that I do not have a gun, that I am not fighting, that I am not cooking for Ukrainian soldiers,” added Helen Globa.
Helen Globa is one of the more than 4 million Ukrainians who the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates have fled the country since the war began.
The Biden administration last week announced it would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the U.S. The White House has indicated it will prioritize LGBTQ people and other vulnerable Ukrainians.
Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, earlier this month told the Blade that she and her office continue to provide support to advocacy groups in Ukraine and in countries that border it. A State Department spokesperson on Tuesday noted to the Blade in response to a request for comment about LGBTQ Ukrainian refugees and reports of transgender women unable to leave the country that “our international organization partners are surging staff to focus exclusively on the protection needs of the most vulnerable fleeing Ukraine.”
“The United States supports Ukrainian organizations that work in Ukraine with vulnerable populations, and where necessary, is supporting efforts to facilitate the ability for many of these vulnerable groups to safely exit Ukraine,” said the spokesperson.
A Russian airstrike in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city that is less than 30 miles from the Russian border in the eastern part of the country, on March 1 killed Elvira Schemur, a 21-year-old law student who was a volunteer for Kharkiv Pride and Kyiv Pride. A group of “bandits” on the same day broke into the Kyiv offices of Nash Mir, an LGBTQ rights group, and attacked four activists who were inside.
Helen Globa said one of her group’s members who fled to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine that is close to the country’s border with Poland, is volunteering at a shelter for LGBTQ Ukrainians. Other Tergo members have sought refuge in other parts of Ukraine or have left the country.
“People tried to escape to any safe places that they could find,” said Helen Globa.
‘Third World War has started’
Helen Globa throughout the interview praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“Zelenskyy is the first president I’m in love with, I’m deeply in love with,” she said.
Zelenskyy last November pledged his country would continue to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after he met with Biden at the White House. Letters that Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality and Ukraine Caucuses sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken before the war began note that Ukraine in recent years “has made great strides towards securing equality for LGBTQ people within its borders and is a regional leader in LGBTQ rights” that include a ban on workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and efforts to protect Pride parades.
Helen Globa told the Blade that she is among the Ukrainians who had previously criticized Zelenskyy, but she added “right now I admire how this person acted, what he said to people, how often he talked to Ukrainians, what he said and how brave he is.”
“He’s a very courageous president,” said Helen Globa. “The whole country is around him.”
She said she supports calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Helen Globa also praised the speech that Biden gave in Warsaw on March 26 in which he said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”
“Biden is pretty sincere and he vocalized his position,” said Helen Globa. “He was absolutely right and I share this opinion that Putin is a criminal and a humanitarian criminal and Putin shouldn’t stay as the leader of the country any more.”
Helen Globa, whose brother and his family live in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, also categorized the war as World War III.
“The administration and Biden should understand and they shouldn’t be like I was at the beginning of the war,” she said. “I didn’t believe the war could start. Biden shouldn’t also lie to himself. The administration shouldn’t also lie to themselves. The Third World War has started.”