by Maksym Dedushko, 2016 RHR Foundation Scholar, 2014 Future Ribbons Scholar, 2012 Scholar
| Sep 28, 2017
I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN CHERNIHIV, a northern city in Ukraine. Growing up poor, my parents place the utmost importance on studying hard as they see getting an education as the only way out of the situation in which they are living – getting by without enough money for basic necessities for a family of four. Studying did pay off as I was able to enter (and win) a competition for a U.S.-sponsored cultural exchange program that provides Ukrainian students an opportunity to study in a U.S. high school and to live with an American host family for one academic year. While attending high school in the U.S., I realized that I wanted to continue to pursue my education here. I was also fearful of going back to Ukraine, where mandatory conscription was awaiting me in a country that is hostile to LGBTQ people. With the help of my family, my host family and friends, a pro bono attorney, and organizations like Seattle Education Access and GSBA, I was able to stay and to begin the long immigration process while pursuing my education here.
Since my arrival in this country, I graduated from Garfield High School, got an Associate of Arts degree from Seattle Central College, and a Bachelors of Science in Molecular Biology and Chemistry with Honors and a Master of Science in Chemistry from the University of Washington.
Right now I am entering my fourth (out of five) year of the Ph.D. program in Biological and Inorganic Chemistry at U.W.
I made my second trip to Ukraine on July 5th of this year, a few days after I passed my Ph.D. candidacy examination. I made this trip as a naturalized U.S. citizen and without fear of being conscripted into military. I wanted to see my family and my homeland, especially after the huge changes that Ukraine has undergone from the pro-Western Maidan Revolution of 2014 to the annexation of Crimea and the Russia-backed military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
I am still not out to my family back in Ukraine because of society’s intolerant views of LGBTQ people. So when I was back in Ukraine I had to turn my “straight face” back on. I find it regrettable that I cannot share a big part of my life experience in Seattle, like who I date, what kinds of volunteering I do or the community involvement that my close friends and I are engaged in to make life for LGBTQ people in Seattle better and more prosperous. My parents know that GSBA awarded me with scholarships that have allowed me to graduate from a prestigious U.S. school (UW) and are amazed and grateful for the organization that has helped me turn my life around, but they still don’t know that part of the GSBA mission is to empower local LGBTQ youth to be successful leaders. I still sometimes feel torn between two realities of my life in that sense.
Going back to Ukraine made me more aware of the fortune and privilege I’ve been given by the Seattle LGBTQ community in contrast to gay people in Ukraine that, for the most part, hide their identity and significant others from society, friends, and family. It’s always an overwhelming experience of enormous gratitude and enormous sadness. I do hope that Ukraine will turn a tide towards a more accepting society which will respect and celebrate everyone’s differences and work towards uplifting each other.
Now that I am back in Seattle, I am focused on finishing my Doctorate in the next two years. I’m already thinking about my long term plans, as I will be trying to make connections to find a full time position as a researcher in Seattle. I want to spend my life in Seattle, which I consider to be my home, and finding a fulfilling career in Seattle is my dream and the next big step.