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Russian Bombardment Killed LGBTQ+ Activist in Ukraine

Elvira Shchemur

"People followed her into her struggle for freedom and equality. And when she smiled, everyone smiled back," the activist's colleagues said.

A 21-year-old queer rights activist from Kharkiv, Ukraine was killed during a Russian airstrike of the city's center.

Elvira, or "Elya," Shchemur, died in early March at the territorial defense office where she had been volunteering, colleagues from Kharkiv Pride told The Guardian.

"Elya was an activist and a patriot: she participated in all possible actions and democratic events of Kharkiv. Together with Elya, we went through three Kharkiv Prides and three women's solidarity marches. Elya was actively engaged in human rights interventions and pride performances," they said.

"She inspired and motivated not only our team but all volunteers around. People followed her into her struggle for freedom and equality. And when she smiled, everyone smiled back," her colleagues added. "Elya was one of the first Kharkiv Pride volunteers that joined the Kharkiv defense office. She was brave and courageous. A patriot and a hero. And this is how we will remember her and never forget."

Besides her activist work, Shchemur studied law.

On Twitter, Kharkiv Pride wrote, "We express our sincere condolences to Elya's loved ones and are ready to provide any help they require. Heroes don't die, only enemies do!"

Kyiv Pride board member Maksym Eristavi wrote on Twitter that she "inspired folks to follow her, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defense of freedom and equality."

"She was brave and courageous," Eristavi added.

Russia continued to lay siege to Ukrainian cities. Hundreds have possibly died in the attacks, including in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, and other cities since Russia began its invasion.

LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine have been lining up to fight against the invading forces or to help with medical and food aid to those displaced or at the frontlines.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which tracks civilian casualties, reports at least 1,035 civilians have been killed and another 1,650 wounded since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

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