From Kyiv to the UK

Learn how Micro Rainbow helped a gay doctor from Kyiv escape persecution and find safety in the UK. Read Bohdan’s inspiring story of resilience and hope.
Leaving Kyiv

Micro Rainbow has been working with LGBTQI refugees from Ukraine since February 2022. During this time, we have supported 77 LGBTQI Ukrainians to reach the UK and facilitated over 700 hours of pro-bono legal advice.

Recently, Micro Rainbow and a gay refugee from Ukraine, Bohdan, whose story is below, attended Weil Gotshal LLP’s pro bono week event to speak about Micro Rainbow’s Ukrainian work. The session was attended by 77 lawyers from Boston, Dallas, Frankfurt, London, New York, and Washington DC. The aim was to recruit more pro bono lawyers to support the Ukraine project and to celebrate the achievements of the project up to now. However, this work needs funding. You can help us continue this life saving work by becoming an ally today.

The partnership between Micro Rainbow and Weil has been shortlisted for  Best New Pro Bono Activity by the LawWorks Annual Pro Bono Awards.

Bohdan spoke about how Micro Rainbow’s Ukrainian project helped him before and after he arrived in the UK. This is his story.

Leaving Kyiv

I am from ­­­­­­Kyiv in Ukraine. Back in Kyiv I worked as a doctor and university department assistant. I decided to leave in the summer of this year after I realised there was nothing more I could do to help, and my health condition deteriorated due to the constant stress I was experiencing. I reached the point when I had to take care of myself. I left and first went to Poland to stay with a friend.

Unfortunately, I was soon outstaying my welcome with my friend in Poland. I was anxious to sort something out and leave Poland for the UK as soon as I could. I could register as refugee in Poland, and it would have given me permission to stay there, but then I would have a problem getting a visa from the British Home Office.

Planning to go to the UK

I wanted to come to the UK, and I knew about the hosting scheme for Ukrainian refugees, but I was worried that people wouldn’t want to host a gay man. I wasn’t out as gay when I was in Ukraine. Ukrainian society mostly is not LGBTQI friendly, especially among people over 40. Most people are not tolerant, however, it depends on the different parts of Ukraine, if it’s a big city or small. But most people feel negative or neutral about LGBTQI people.

I wasn’t scared of persecution because I was very discreet about my sexuality. But I know about cases when openly gay people were attacked by extremists due to their appearance and pro-LGBTQI position. Plus, my family is religious, and they don’t know about me. Working as a doctor I was worried about my reputation; in the medical community everyone knows each other.

Finding help with Micro Rainbow

I found Micro Rainbow when searching on Google for LGBTQI organisations working with Ukrainians in the UK and got in contact with when I was still in Poland. Micro Rainbow’s Outreach Officer replied to me and began to give me information on how to access the UK visa scheme for Ukrainians. They were able to put me in contact with a lawyer also. When I first decided to come to the UK, I thought because I already spoke a good level of English, I would be able to do the application by myself. After I was connected with a lawyer, I realised that it would be very difficult to do it on my own.

The forms that need to be completed and the evidence supplied is very precise and is submitted through a UK Government portal. It is easy to miss something and then find that your application has been refused because you filled in part of the applications wrong. I had a video call with my lawyer from Weil Gotshal and they explained everything I needed to do and walked me through the process. Having support from a lawyer during this process meant that I had a professional checking through everything and nothing was missed. After submitting, I got my visa from the Home Office in less than a month.

Reaching the UK and meeting my host

Micro Rainbow’s Outreach Officer also supported me during this time and helped to find me an LGBTQI-friendly host family through its partnership with Refugees at Home. I was put in touch with Martin who was happy to host me in the UK. Then I was able to make arrangements to come to the UK.

I flew to the UK from Poland and arrived on 3rd August 2023. I met my host Martin when he kindly picked me up from the airport. My host Martin is lovely, and he is also a gay man. He and I have a father and son like relationship. He supports me by answering any questions I have and gives me a lot of useful advice. The house is nice and my stay is comfortable.  

Finding work in the UK

When I got to the UK I began trying to find work. I have worked consistently for many years. I have been studying since childhood and then went straight from university to working as a doctor. Leaving Ukraine for Poland, and then going to the UK is the first time in my life when I haven’t been busy and working. At first it was nice having a rest, but now I am very keen to get working again.

However, I have struggled to find work in the UK. My degrees mean that I am overqualified for many jobs, but I cannot work as a doctor because the NHS doesn’t accept my qualifications. It is difficult to apply for jobs because if I have my qualifications on my CV I am rejected for roles, but if I take them off it looks like I haven’t been working at all for many years. So, it is very difficult. The process of applying over and over and getting rejected every time is tiring and depressing.

Hopes for the future

My hope for the future is that I can get registered with the General Medical Council and work again as a doctor. It seems that it is not just patients that have to wait a long time to access the NHS, but also people who want to work in the NHS! In the meantime, I am studying at a local college so I can work in the NHS in a different role. I am still applying for jobs and hope that I will be able to start working soon.

 

Help us continue this work

Since February 2022, Micro Rainbow has helped over 80 Ukrainians like Bohdan access lifesaving support and connected them with key partners. Many have started working and are busy rebuilding their lives in the UK. Micro Rainbow’s partnership with Weil Gotshal LLP and Wesley Gryk LLP has also led to 42 solicitors being trained to sensitively support LGBTQI Ukrainians with their visa applications with over 700 hours of pro-bono legal advice.

 

As the full-scale invasion of Ukraine continues, Micro Rainbow is committed to supporting LGBTQI Ukrainians like Bohdan. We will continue to support them and the other LGBTQI Ukrainians in the UK with social inclusion and moving on support and will do so until the situation changes. However, this work was only partially funded with small grants from LandAid and Choose Love and is now run without any funding at all. Help us continue this life saving work by becoming an ally today.

 

We are extremely proud to have been nominated as LandAid’s Charity of the Year for our work with LGBTQI Ukrainian refugees. 

LandAid Awards 2023 Nominee

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