Dressed in flashy suits, custom made to match the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, Taras Karasiichuk and Mykola Maslov stood before a clerk at the Manhattan marriage bureau on July 1 and spoke their wedding vows.
It was the culmination of a kaleidoscopic month for the young men. They had flown to New York from their home in Kiev days before the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a constitutional right. And then, carrying Ukrainian and American flags, they marched in the pride parade in Manhattan.
Three weeks earlier, in Kiev, Taras and Mykola (who is known by the nickname Kolya) were part of a smaller, less festive gay rights demonstration. Flanked by riot police officers and carrying rainbow flags, they marched only a short distance before the attack came: Men in camouflage and face masks shot pepper spray into the crowd and threw little bombs packed with nails.
“In New York pride is a holiday,” Kolya said. “For us, it’s a trial.”
A vacation in New York offered a chance to exhale, to enjoy a summer of simple pleasures — trips to the beach, concerts in the park or, in the case of the parade, dancing on Fifth Avenue — before returning to the war and revolution and uncertainty of Ukraine. Mostly they came to love each other openly and without fear, to walk the streets hand in hand, to steal a public kiss: little things that are nearly impossible at home.