A Gay Combatant Teaches Children

Nobody knows anything about me, of course. Even my closest friends know nothing.

To be more precise, people know the same things they would know about a “normal” person. That I work as a teacher at school, I teach biology and chemistry, I went to ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation is a term used by Ukrainian government and media to refer to a military conflict that takes place in the territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists backed up by Russian military forces – Translator’s note), and I have experience of war.

They know the heroic side of my biography, a “showy” one, “the one for people,” let’s call it this way.

When I received a conscription notice from the army, I didn’t hesitate. The whole school was preparing me – as a salary of a teacher (and even of a head teacher ) is too low. We bought a bullet-proof vest, a uniform of good quality that isn’t as easily set on fire as an old Soviet one, which is still used in Ukrainian army. After I had left, people sent me thermal clothing, socks, and underwear a few times. They weren’t helping just me – but the whole military company. They knew that we didn’t really have time or an opportunity to wash clothes or shower. It hurt so bad every time I went to some peaceful city to pick up a package.

I had never thought before that a pair of usual military undies would make me cry.

I don’t think I am a hero. I was doing my duty. I was a company commander, I led people into combat or commanded them to retreat. It happened some times that rookies were assigned to us, grown-up men who didn’t even know what they had signed up for.

Sometimes, on the way back from the combat we were talking about some small unimportant things, like we were people from the same village coming back from work in a bus. But we were those people who were shooting and killing just a moment ago.
You lose something in a war, you change a lot. Luckily, nobody from my company died, everybody came back.

I returned from ATO and saw what’s happening here… Pride Week. I am glad nobody asked me about my attitude toward it – because I wouldn’t even know what to say. Maybe, I would have said something neutral – that it’s there business or something like that.
But to be honest, it is my business as well. I am gay. And I am a biology and chemistry teacher at school. And also I am a son, a brother, and I love my Motherland.
By the way, when I went to war, I was already single. My boyfriend with whom I had lived for 5 years couldn’t forgive me for going to war without talking to him first. I know it probably wasn’t fair in relation to him. I asked for nobody’s opinion because I thought that there was nothing to discuss.

I have already said that the war changes you. I experienced it myself – I am thinking to change my life completely: to abandon teaching because I feel because that I should turn this page. I am also seriously considering moving to Kyiv. I have met a guy from Kyiv recently. We now have a “guest marriage” type of relationship but we want to change that. I want to go to a Pride March but while I am a teacher it is impossible. I can already see the eyes of my students and of their parents, I can already hear all these gossips behind my back.

I learned a very scary thing – it was easier in the war zone. Everything was black and white there, everything was easy and clear. And here you live… in hiding. It’s not a full-fledged life.

And if to be totally honest… I want the day to come when I will be able to call my partner my husband, so my relatives and close friends who were worried for me when I was in the war, they will know not only about a “showy” side of my life. I really need this.
In addition… Maybe we will adopt children. I know a lot about pedagogy, don’t I?

I.D., 40 years