Arkady Gyngazov grew up in the severe winters of the Siberian city of Tomsk. There, he learned at an early age that being gay was unacceptable.
Looking for a place where he could be himself, Gyngazov moved to Moscow. He began to work at Central Station, a gay club, and was able to live openly as a gay man. That changed a year and a half ago when he began hearing horror stories about gay friends and colleagues being threatened and beaten in the streets of Russia’s capital city.
He was right to worry for his safety.
Gyngazov was leaving work with a friend when a group of men approached them. They surrounded the pair, punching and kicking them, all the while shouting, “Fags!”
When he reported the crime, he was told by the police that the attack had been his fault.
In another event, over 500 people were evacuated from Central Station after the club was attacked with poisonous gas. This was only one of several attacks on the club, including a shooting that left bullet holes in the building’s façade.
“I’m not going back to Russia because when I was there I was afraid for my life,” Gyngazov said.
Bogdan Morozov worked at the same club. He made the decision to not return home shortly after landing in the United States and hearing the news about the attacks.
Morozov is from Samara, in the southeastern part of Russia, where the local government approved a series of anti-gay laws in 2012, and through which the Olympic torch passed last December.
“I was attacked in my home town,” he said. “I tried going to the police to report the crime, but the police said they wouldn’t accept my report and they didn’t protect me.”
Morozov fled to Moscow a short time later, only to see the situation there quickly deteriorate for him and his friends.
After arriving in the U.S. and realizing it would be unsafe for them to return to Russia, Gyngazov and Morozov contacted Immigration Equality for help in seeking asylum.
“I want to work and live in peace,” Morozov says. “If I’m granted asylum I want study English and go to school to be a personal trainer and fitness coach.”
“I won’t go back,” he said. “I’m going to stay.”