Anatoliy Yerema

Anatoliy Yerema (2015)
HD video, sound, color, 16:9
8:39 minutes

Hello everybody, my name is Anatoliy Yerema. I am a TV producer and I have been working in TV for more than 20 years. During an interview in the past I admitted who I really am. I spoke about the fact that at the age of 33 or 34 I felt gay, about the consequences of this feeling and how I had to live with it. The story caused a lot of interest perhaps because I am a public figure. People were interested and it may even have helped someone realize who they really are. Maybe the story helped someone at that moment. I don’t know, but I really hope it did.

I saw the journalist’s sincere intention to understand the issue—not only to make a sensationalist program—and also to raise the question: What does it mean for a person to admit who he or she is? What would the effects of such an admission be for their career? Generally speaking, the outcome wasn’t negative for me. But of course, it wasn’t easy. I didn’t take everything into account. I didn’t foresee that this would be very hard for my children and that they would have to answer difficult questions. But this is what life is. It is not always nice and pleasant. Sometimes there are moments when you have to defend yourself and your father. I am very proud of my children because they managed to protect their dignity and their father’s dignity.

During a certain period in my life, I was closely connected to the Molodist Film Festival. The Molodist team is very progressive and they have brought many movies to Ukraine from different festivals. Once the director of the festival and I had a meeting with the coordinators of the LGBT section of the Berlin Film Festival and, surprisingly, we realized that no other big film festival had the Teddy Awards format. The Molodist is quite big, so together with Andriy Khalpakhchi we thought, “why not?”

Less than half a year later, in 2002, the program Sunny Bunny appeared as part of the Molodist Film Festival. Though it resonated, there was no negative reaction at the beginning. Maybe people did not understand what it really was. We wanted to show movies about gay, lesbian and transgender lives being very similar to the lives of other people, to demonstrate that they have their problems too. We didn’t want to do this to entertain. We wanted to deal with important social topics such as the adaptation problems these people face in society. There were a lot of people at these screenings. We started organizing conferences and roundtables and things were set into motion. It was one of the first LGBT events in Ukraine. I am very glad that after I left, the Molodist team continued the project and, thank God, this program has been part of the festival for 13 years.

I know it is impossible to overcome obscurantism in one fell swoop. You need patience and consistent work. And you have to believe in what you do. Even under pressure from some religious orthodoxs who don’t want to hear you. You have to continue saying what you need to say, telling the world the truth about yourself. Only when people see that you consistently stand by your ideas, they will acknowledge that you believe in those ideas and that means that people will also understand that the truth is on your side. That is the only way to get things done. So, I’m sure that if the Zhovten Cinema was burnt down we will restore it. The Sunny Bunny program will be on the screens of Zhovten again.

I think the LGBT movement in Ukraine is in critical need of help from public figures: Writers, influential intellectuals, or even politicians. This help is very important because the influence of these people on society can make the wide majority think about what they say and what ideas they support. The support of gay pride was very good: It was supported by writers, journalists, and even MPs… It is hard to overestimate the importance of the presence of several MPs at the pride march. In such a society as Ukraine, it is indeed very important.

 If we look at the evolution of the LGBT movement in the last 20 years, the first decade was dedicated to doing local work. Interestingly, one of the first organizations was founded in the east, in Lugansk, where no one expected such an organization to appear. It was doing everything it could: They published brochures, magazines, and created a website. Now this work has turned into something bigger. It has received the support of such organizations as Amnesty International and also western embassies that support LGBT events.

Don’t forget that Ukraine is a “Facebook country.” It may sound like exaggeration, but Facebook made the Revolution of Dignity possible. People gathered in Maidan after a famous journalist posted a Facebook post. The possibilities provided by this social network and the way it affects the success of the country and of the projects taking place here now is a new reality whose potential we probably haven’t fully estimated yet. It seems to me that we have to work more here, to develop this potential more, but we shouldn’t forget that the virtual Facebook world doesn’t cover 100% of society. We should not forget it and lose sense of reality. We should work both on the Internet and beyond it.

People, I want to say this to all of you: Don’t forget you are human. Don’t forget to remain human and to see the human beings beside you. Don’t think about the color of their skin or their sexual orientation: See human beings who have a right to be who they are. In my opinion a human has two main rights: The right to life and right to love. Love is limitless and does not know borders and colors. It can be red, blue, or pink, anything. The main thing is that this is love, that there are feelings, mutual feelings.