The season of rainbow parades has arrived in New York, but at the Brighton Beach Pride Parade on the first 90 degree day of the year brought with it just as many blue and yellow flags. Organized by Rusa LGBTQ+, a group that supports queer Russian-speaking immigrants in the U.S., the parade marched under the official slogan “Free Ukraine = Free World.”
Demonstrators chanted “hey hey ho ho homophobia has got to go,” along with Russian language chants that translate to “Putin! Asshole!” and “Glory to Ukraine,” as couples hugged, held hands, and danced to live music on the Coney Island boardwalk. Representatives from Rusa LGBTQ+ handed out flyers with information about how to obtain Russian-language health care services and pro-bono immigration lawyers to help with asylum cases through their organization.
Organizers made an explicit connection between supporting Ukrainian refugees and all queer immigrants trying to escape oppression and find community in New York. Brighton Beach has one of the highest concentrations of Russian-speaking immigrants in the city, if not country.
Violette Matevosian, Rusa LGBTQ+’s development coordinator, is themselves an asylum-seeker from Russia, a country that they describe as hostile to queer and Jewish people. They have found community through Rusa LGBTQ+, though, which helped them with their own asylum case, and they have been organizing major events and fundraisers with them ever since.
“It was powerful to see the LGBTQ+ community from all over the former Soviet Union say we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going anywhere,” Matevosian told Brooklyn Magazine.
The event, which drew a couple hundred people Sunday, kicked off with live Ukrainian folk music and a marching band, followed by speeches, after which volunteers raced to the water’s edge and jumped into the sea, hugging, laughing, and celebrating the day of community and love.
Here are a few scenes from the day.
Rabbi Marisa James of the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, or CBST, came to Brighton Beach Pride to support the community of Jewish and LGBTQ+ of Brooklyn (Alina Patrick)
Hundreds marched and many beach goers joined in (Alina Patrick)
Antony and Svetlana (Alina Patrick)
There were just as many Ukraine flags as rainbow banners (Alina Patrick)
Tamilia (Alina Patrick)
A literal marching band (Alina Patrick)
Waving a flag (Alna Patrick)
Beachgoers peer through a Brighton Beach Pride banner (Alina Patrick)
Elena Goltsman, the founder and co-president of Rusa LGBT (Alina Patrick)
Leny, who grew up in Odessa, Ukraine, has been in the U.S. for more than 30 years and works to help Ukrainian refugees in the area (Alina Patrick)
Violette, Kseniia, and Daniela raced down to the water after the parade ended to celebrate and cool off (Alina Patrick)