Dangerous Liaisons

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From Gay Propaganda (OR Books), a new collection of stories and testimonials documenting the struggles of LGBT Russians, edited by Masha Gessen and Joseph Huff-Hannon ’09JRN.


IRINA: I was born in a small town in Siberia. I never went to art school, but I’d always wanted to be an artist, even though my parents told me, “You’ll never be an artist.” When I was 19, I decided that if I couldn’t be an artist, I would study to become something else close to my heart. I chose literature. I went to Leningrad to apply to the philology faculty of the university. It turned out that I needed to take a history exam, so I tore off a flier for preparatory history classes.

One day — it was June 1991 — I was walking down Ligovsky Prospekt, going to the address from the flier, when suddenly, it happened.

Ahead of me, I saw a pink dress. It seemed insane: the pink against the grey backdrop of the Soviet Union. I only saw her silhouette, delicate and distinct. Everything was grey except the sun and this pink dress. I walked along and thought, “Where is she going?” I needed to do something, but I didn’t know what, so I just followed her.

It turned out we were going to the same place, to the same class. We found ourselves in the foyer of an old St. Petersburg building with a grand staircase. I remember how, as she was going up the stairs, she turned around and looked at me. At that moment, I knew that I would never lose her.

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