ADDED ON: 04/16/2022

The library sheltering queer refugees fleeing Ukraine

4/15/22 | The Saturday Paper

This is not the story I planned to write. Initially, it was about Biblioteka Azyl, the queer library Filip Kijowski founded at Lublin’s Galeria Labirynt in 2020 with curator Waldemar Tatarczuk. Kijowski was going to visit me in Rome. We were going to talk about why he is building this archive in Poland and what it will do for queers in an increasingly hostile state. Then war broke out and Biblioteka Azyl – which translates to Asylum Library – pivoted. “I spoke with Waldemar and as Lublin is only 150 kilometres from Ukraine, we decided we couldn’t not respond,” Kijowski says. “We talked to an activist in the US who knew someone needing escape and agreed to be the contact at this border.” The library is now a crucial link in the sophisticated network that has sprung up to aid LGBTQIA+ refugees, forgotten by governments. With other Polish and Ukrainian organisations such as Warszawa-based Lambda and Warszawa Pride, Biblioteka Azyl is helping co-ordinate transport, accommodation, medical and therapeutic aid. A trans kid and his mother have been housed in Poland, a trans woman and non-binary person are in Warszawa; a lesbian couple in Lviv is poised to cross. A team of drivers, mostly based in Berlin, is helping deliver medication to the border as well as transporting people. Kijowski is 27 years old, with a mop of dark hair over glasses with candy-striped frames, one round and one square. He speaks in a crisp London accent, the result of living there for half his life. He has dark circles around his eyes and when he finally comes to visit he spends most of his holiday on computer and phone.

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