Same-Sex Couple, Family Flee Russia after Supermarket Ad Makes Them Targets

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday August 6, 2021

This photo was featured in the ad that prompted such vicious threats that the family had to flee Russia
This photo was featured in the ad that prompted such vicious threats that the family had to flee Russia  (Source:yu.mila/Instagram)

A family that includes a lesbian mother and a same-sex couple has fled Russia in fear for their lives after being featured in an online advertisement last month, UK newspaper The Guardian reports.

"Mother Yuma, daughters Mila and Alina, and Alina's girlfriend Ksyusha have said they were forced to leave Russia for Spain after they featured in an ad" for VkusVill, a Russian supermarket chain. In the ad — a photo and text posted to Instagram and at the supermarket's website — the women "said they enjoyed VkusVill's onigiri rice balls and hummus," The Guardian recounted.

The family also talked about veganism, fair trade, the nature of love and family, and the plight faced by many LGTBQ+ people in Russia's climate of anti-LGBTQ+ hostility, as EDGE reported previously.

Like her daughter Alina, Yuam, too, is in a relationship with another woman, the BBC noted.

Despite being marked with warnings, the ad was a possible violation of Russia's draconian "no homo promo" law from 2013, which forbids discussion or positive representation of LGTBQ people and themes.

Though the ad generated a groundswell of support for the couple and their family members, it also sparked a brutal "backlash," The Guardian reported. The grocery chain immediately backpedaled, claiming the ad had been a "mistake, a manifestation of unprofessionalism of certain employees," The Guardian recounted.

"VkussVill... pulled the advertisement and replaced it with one that featured heterosexual families," The Guardian said, and "issued a public apology" claiming that "the original ad 'hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers and employees.'"

While the supermarket worried about hurt feelings, trolls detailed the actual harm they said they wanted to do the family, expressing their hatred with vicious posts and threatening messages.

"I was just knocked back by comments to my granddaughter, where some people wrote that they wanted to rape her, kill her, stab a child who is just sitting and smiling in the photograph," Yuma told YouTube personality and LGBTQ advocate Karen Shainyan.

"I'm most afraid for my granddaughter," Yuma added.

Yuam's daughter Mila — the sister of Alina — took to Instagram following the family's flight to Spain, where they are seeking refuge. "Right now me and my family very much need to get settled in Barcelona," Mila wrote, adding that the "complicated situation" has left them "without work and without a home." Mila appealed to readers and any friends of readers who might be able to help.

Another post includes "Yuma's caption explaining that they had to leave Russia 'so that my daughter could marry her girlfriend'," the BBC article recounted. "Yuma voiced her own pain at having been rejected by her parents 'because I'm a lesbian.'"

"In Russia we're denied the basic right to have a family," Yuma added in the post. "No matter who we are, we should all have that right!"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.