1. Natalya and Asya are from St. Petersburg, Russia. They’ve been together for almost 11 years now.
They also have a 2-year-old daughter and a cat. To protect their privacy, the couple asked BuzzFeed not to print their full names or photographs of their daughter.
2. The couple first met in Crimea, where Natalya was vacationing and Asya was visiting her parents.
“I was invited by my friend to go over her friend’s house, where we met for the first time and, after that, we never were apart,” said Natalya. “We eventually decided to move in together, but I guess no one ever expected that our relationship would last this long.”
3. The relationship between the couples’ respective parents became strained after the birth of their daughter.
“My parents at first generally were OK with the relationship between Asya and I — but after our child’s birth, things got more complicated,” said Natalya. “Asya’s relationship with her parents was also ruined after the anti-gay propaganda started in Russia.”
4. Back in Russia, they also dealt with neighbors who threatened to call child protective services.
“We started having problems with the neighbors once a child was introduced. Before that, we got along fine — I wouldn’t say we were friends, but if we ever bumped into each other, it was fine,” said Natalya, pictured above submitting her paperwork at the Marriage Bureau at the city clerk’s office.
5. Some doctors refused to give their child medical care, even during emergencies.
Their child was denied health care twice. “We had called an ambulance because the 17-month-old was running a very high fever and doctor left without examining the child,” said the couple. Another time, a doctor told Natalya and Asya they were bad parents because they are gay. To avoid another lecture, Asya later left their home when they called in a doctor for their daughter.
6. Natalya and Asya cited their child as the main reason they left Russia.
“We started to really worry when the State Duma Deputy Aleksei Zhuravlev started pushing the bill that would prevent gay parents from keeping custody of their children,” said Natalya. “Even before legislation is passed, we believe social services and/or the courts may decide to remove the child. For the last two years the Russian government, the Russian Orthodox Church, and state-controlled television have engaged in a concerted campaign to incite violence against LGBT people.”
7. “The question of leaving Russia is complicated. It’s not a question of ‘Do you want to leave Russia?’ as much as it is ‘How realistic is it?’” said Natalya.
“The propaganda has specifically focused on same-sex families with children. As just such a family, we fear we may be targeted by either organized or random anti-gay violence.”
8. Last week, surrounded by friends, Natalya and Asya decided to get married. They moved to America in January, and are now in the process of filing for asylum.
When they first arrived in Washington, D.C., the couple met with Larry Poltavtsev, an activist with Spectrum Human Rights Alliance, who introduced them to LGBT activist and journalist Masha Gessen and provided them with shelter in his home. Masha then put them in touch with a lawyer in New York who is helping them adjust and prepare their documents to file for asylum.
9. They often struggle with navigating a daunting city while still learning English.
After the wedding, the couple and their friends stopped by an inexpensive, kid-friendly restaurant where they primarily focused on finding food the three toddlers present would eat.
10. Still, Natalya and Asya feel New York is a much safer place than St. Petersburg for their family.
“People [in Russia] hear on the TV that gay parents corrupt their kids, that they’re sick people. And they somehow think it’s their duty to ‘save’ the child,” Natalya said.
11. After four months in the U.S., Natalya and Asya are still adjusting to being an out gay couple in America.
After lunch, the couple went to a nearby playground to spend time with their daughter.
12. “Once, someone at the bus stop asked us if we were together and we were scared and didn’t know what to say, because if you say you’re gay in Russia, you could immediately get hit on the head,” said Natalya.
“But then we realized they meant it in a kind way and just wanted to congratulate us.”
13. Now the women share an apartment complex with an LGBT activist and get around the city with help from friends in the local Russian-speaking LGBT community.
Natalya (pictured above) played with her daughter before the wedding after-party held upstairs.
14. After attending another Russian same-sex wedding in America, they decided they too wanted to tie the knot.
On the evening of their wedding day, Asya and Natalya prepared a simple spread of cold cuts and traditional Russian olivye salad to take upstairs to the party.
15. “We decided to get married when we got here, but in truth, it was always a childhood dream of mine,” said Natalya.
“After Asya and I were together for over 10 years, I think we imagined getting married, but it always seemed impossible.”
16. While their future in America remains uncertain, Natalya and Asya are choosing to focus on raising their child together and taking everything day by day.
When asked how she felt being newly married, Asya shrugged and said, “I don’t know, I suppose I have a ring on my finger now.”
17. “As early as February, people here were coming up to us and saying how wonderful it is that we’re together and holding hands,” Natalya said.
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