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The double-exile of Dr. Anton: Interview by Politico

The double-exile of Dr. Anton: Interview by Politico

KIEV — At sunset, on the outskirts of Kiev, Anton lights a cigarette and looks out from his balcony, hundreds of miles from war, from home, from love.

Life for this middle-aged, soft-spoken doctor had become unbearable in his hometown of Donetsk, a frontline city held by Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. His decision to leave, however, was not taken lightly — it meant abandoning his long-term partner.

Nor would fleeing the warzone lead him to safe ground.

Anton is among 1.6 million Ukrainians uprooted by war to other parts of the country. As the conflict grinds through its fourth vicious winter, the state is failing these disenfranchised citizens, who face poverty, prejudice and perplexing levels of bureaucracy.

Anton is also a gay man living in a former Soviet nation where homophobia flourishes. Internally displaced people (IDPs) already face stigma here; it is intensified when their sexuality or gender identity doesn’t match the mainstream.

He found sanctuary in a secret shelter helping displaced LGBTQ people start their lives over, while the Ukrainian government struggles to deal with the war’s humanitarian fallout.

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