An openly queer family from Russia was forced to flee their home country after receiving vile homophobic threats over their appearance in a supermarket advert.
On June 30 during the final day of Pride Month, the family of Yuma and partner Zhenya, and their two daughters Mila and Alina, were featured in supermarket VkusVill’s ad as an example of a health-conscious family of shoppers. Although it contained no adult content, it was marked on the shop website as ‘18 plus.’
The ad risked running afoul of Russia’s law against “gay propaganda toward minors,” which effectively bans displays of LGBTQ+ related content. The 2013 law, as well as last year’s constitutional amendments that define marriage as a heterosexual institution, have been the subject of criticism from rights activists and European countries.
The image was met with a conservative backlash in Russia, which prompted VkusVill to pull the advertisement just four days after it aired, and replac it with one that featured heterosexual families.
The company also issued a public apology and said the original ad “hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers and employees.” The brand also called the ad a “mistake,” and “a manifestation of unprofessionalism of certain employees.”
The attacks on the family did not stop once the ad was taken down from the company website, with some of the anti-LGBTQ+ messages reportedly including rape and death threats. Before the family was forced to flee Russia they recorded an interview with YouTuber Karèn Shainyan, who discusses queer issues on his channel.
In the interview Yuma said: “I was just knocked back by comments to my [eight year-old] granddaughter, where some people wrote that they wanted to rape her, kill her, stab a child who is just sitting and smiling in the photograph. I’m most afraid for my granddaughter.”
“Comments are just the tip of the iceberg,” Yuma said, recalling previous homophobic attacks where she had been doused with chemicals by masked thugs and targeted by crowds threatening to stab her and set her on fire.
“I don’t want that to happen, I want to protect my family,” she said. “I don’t want to live like that. I’m tired.”
The family have since gone to Barcelona, where Yuma posted to her Instagram saying: “We are safe, we are resting. We don’t have to hide our happiness to be a family. A huge thank you to those who supported us, to those who risked speaking out in our support, and those who supported us personally. Thanks to you, we didn’t give in. For all of us this was a difficult experience, we’re all in a difficult state of mind. But the sea, sun and kindness are healing us.”
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