A lesbian couple and their family, who were featured in an advert for a Russian supermarket chain that led to a national scandal have fled the country after facing online abuse and death threats.
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 in which they said they enjoyed VkusVill’s onigiri rice balls and hummus.
“Unfortunately, due to the complicated situation with VkusVill, we have been left without work and without a home,” wrote daughter Mila on Instagram, posting a picture from a balcony in Spain.
“Right now me and my family very much need to get settled in Barcelona. It’s a difficult time for us and we need friends,” she continued. “Maybe the friends of your friends or their friends can help us start our new life in Barcelona.”
The ad met with a conservative backlash in Russia, which passed a law in 2013 banning “gay propaganda”. VkusVill quickly pulled the advertisement and replaced it with one that featured heterosexual families. It issued a public apology and said the original ad “hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers and employees”.
After the ad’s removal, the family said they were targeted by a hate campaign, culminating in the four women fleeing to Spain in order to ensure their safety.
In a YouTube interview recorded just before their departure, the family described the abuse directed against them, as the BBC reported. They spoke to YouTuber Karen Shainyan, who discusses LGBT issues on his channel.
Yuma said: “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. I’m most afraid for my granddaughter.”
After the publication of the original ad, Yuma thanked VkusVill on her Instagram page, writing: “Perhaps the most important thing for our family is care and acceptance.”
But days later the brand called the ad a “mistake, a manifestation of unprofessionalism of certain employees”.
In an Instagram post from Barcelona, Yuma wrote: “We are safe, we are resting. We don’t have to hide our happiness to be a family. A huge thank-you to those who supported us, to those who risked speaking out in our support, and those who supported us personally. Thanks to you, we didn’t give in. For all of us this was a difficult experience, we’re all in a difficult state of mind. But the sea, sun and kindness are healing us.”