The Associated Press recently told the story of Andrew Mironov, a smart Russian electrical engineering student who gave up the stability of his life in Russia to seek asylum in the United States. The reason: He was gay, and feared beatings and persecution in an increasingly anti-gay Russian society.
He told the AP about his situation.
“In Russia, I would have gotten my Ph.D. this fall, had a job and health insurance. Now, here, I’m nobody.”
He’s not really complaining about the United States though, saying that happiness takes priority over success. And it would be difficult for a gay person to be happy in his home town of Samara, where locals may likely beat homosexuals for their lifestyle. Mr. Mironov explained that here in the United States, even in New York City, he feels safe.
And he’s not alone.
The department of homeland security estimates that asylum seekers from Russia are up 34 percent from 2012 to about 969 people. However, motives are hard to determine, since the state department keeps much of the information on asylum seekers secret. According to the New York based Immigration Equality, which provides legal services for LGBT immigrants, the increase is at least partially due to more violence and intolerance towards gays.
The group says that the number of gay Russian immigrants seeking United States asylum was 68 in 2012 and 131 through October of this year.
Since 2012, attacks on demonstrations for gay rights have also been on the rise in Russia. In 2013, Vladimir Putin signed the gay propaganda law, effectively giving assailants some degree of legitimacy in their violence.
Andrew Nasonov and Igor Bazilevsky are two more gay Russian asylum seekers into the United States. They are a long-term couple who faced violence and harassment in their homes in Voronezh, Russia. They were taken in by another gay couple living in a Washington suburb, and while there they finally did something that would be impossible even in the United States until recently: they got married.
“We were finally able to say that we are a real family. there are not enough words to describe how wonderful these feelings are. But of course, we are still faced with a lot of difficulties. It was hard to leave our relatives, friends, and parents behind in Russia…. We have nothing here, and in many ways are completely dependent on the assistance of the people who surround us.”
These immigrants may have an uncertain future in the United States, but freedom from fear is worth it for many.
[Image Credit: Ain92/Wikimedia Commons]