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Lina is a 29-year-old lesbian from Russia. Lina was in the closet in Russia because she feared the hostile and homophobic environment and struggled with her sexuality. She had a relationship with a man to hide her sexual orientation. When she came to ImEq last year, she had been living in the U. S. for more than eight years and did not hold hope that we could help. She knew about the one-year filing requirement for asylum and worried that her situation was “hopeless.”

During her intake meeting, Lina explained that she suffered from depression and anxiety due to living her life in fear and struggling with accepting herself after years of hiding and denial. Immigration Equality accepted her case into our Pro Bono Asylum program despite the fact that Lina had not suffered past persecution or harm and she had missed her one-year filing deadline. It was our assessment that she met a changed circumstances exception to the one-year filing requirement due to the passing of the anti-propaganda laws and the sharp increase in violence against LGBT Russians after the laws were passed. She won asylum early in October 2014.

I left my country when I was 20. It took me many years to understand who I was and start accepting myself. Once I found peace in my heart, I became hopeless about how I would get my life going in the United States. I thought things would never get better for me.