I’ve kept silence for too long...

Olena Tarasyk

#FeelYourRights contest

Dear friends! Our #FeelYourRights contest is over.

The Human Rights Information Center editorial staff received more than 20 stories. And we are pleased to know that the great extraordinary "ordinary" people defend the human rights. Your stories are moving and inspiring. We will be glad to publish some of them on our website. The first story comes from our winner Olena Tarasyk.

I am 15 years old. I and my mother stand at a bus stop. She’s going to work, I’m going to school. I’m a typical Soviet tenth-grader: long braids, two huge bows, red plastic watch - my pride (!). Please, do not forget it’s the Soviet times. Life plays with colorful colors. I’m almost a star at the new school. I play guitar, sing, I’m very talkative, so - oops! With my naive eyes wide open (I have not been beaten for long), I look at a woman who "right off the bat", having not yet approached my mother, first half-interrogatively, and then cheerfully-affirmatively announces for all the people standing at the bus stop, "Jewess!"

I should make a small remark about "I have not been beaten for long." At my first school, I was insulted for my national origin. I was insulted in words, "All have Ukrainian mothers, and she is the only one who has Jewish mother!" and in deeds when the entire crowd gathered at the porch and knocked me into the middle of next week. Note, nobody wanted a face to face fight as they could be shot down in flames. But, the crowd… the crowd is the great thing. However, it was me then, and it is my mother who is being insulted now.

Having grabbed my school bag with two hands and turned red with anger, I approach the woman, she finally puts her foot in her mouth, tram comes at that moment, I and my mother make haste – she’s going to work, I’m going to school.

I am 45 years old. I am standing and holding a poster "Ukraine is one, we are part of it." The same mad woman, as thirty years ago, approaches me, but saying other words, "Girl, how long will you stand here? We don’t need any lesbians or gays!"

I look at her calmly. She is jumping around and does not even try to tear a poster out of my hands, as she does later to another member of the single picket in defense of the rights of LGBT people. I participate in such an action for the first time.

I do many things for the first time. Fear has been haunting me all my life. Every my cell has been saturated with it, making me do everything “with caution.”

With caution because of my Jewishness first, and because of my non-traditional orientation later.

My parents did not know that I did not fit in the conventional picture of sexual life. They could guess it, but they maintained the status quo. My father outlived my mother by one year. And it was too high price to pay to realize what things in life are really worthy and what should I be afraid of.

I could tell a lot about the challenges I have faced in my life. But they make no sense. The main thing is to defend your rights primarily before yourself, to say who you are to yourself. And then you can say it to others.

Once a young man, whom I studied at the same school with, asked me why I did not say that I had a Jewish blood. I replied, "What do you want? Should I hang a sign on my neck?"

I have not hung a sign, I have not done loud statements and coming-outs. I have not felt the need for that. Actually, it has been no need. But now, when I have experienced first-hand that I have no right to a person, whom I love and who loves me, before the law, that the common property, inheritance, and many other things available to most people are not available for me, I have realized that I’ve kept silence for too long.

I have the right to the right. The right to live, love, work. Be myself. That’s it, after all.

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