Woman’s family threatened to put her in psychiatric unit when she said she was gay


They are separated by 1,350 miles, distinct cultures and different decades – but when civil rights campaigners Andrea Giuliano and Luchia Fitzgerald got together to talk, the connection between them was unmistakable.

LGBTQ + activists of different generations, Andrea has been facing the same bigotry and danger in Hungary in 2021 that Lucia faced in Ireland in 1964.

And when they met as part of the Mirror’s Europe Talks project, they both felt history repeating itself.

Andrea, 39, is a human rights activist who has faced death threats and intimidation, forcing him to leave his home in Hungary.

Luchia, 74, fled homophobic abuse in Ireland to live on the streets of Manchester as a teenager after her family threatened to send her away to a psychiatric institution.

She has spent most of her adult life campaigning and was able to share her experiences, and a few laughs, with Andrea – an inspirational chat that hopefully will be the first of many.

To join, see mirror.co.uk/europetalks

Andrea Giuliano, 39, from Hungary, faced death threats

Luchia says: “I’ve enjoyed meeting you and listening to you, I really have.

“If ever you want any advice from an elder, I’m here.”

Andrea adds: “It’s been a real pleasure, thank you, it’s inspiring to hear you, I hope we can chat more. I understand more now.”

The pair met over Zoom during the Europe Talks project, bringing together people from the UK and 20 other nations to speak with someone new.

Andrea, an Italian who lived in Hungary for 12 years, seems nervous as he opens the conversation by telling of protesting in his adopted country.

Luchia Fitzgerald, 74, from Ireland, was threatened with being put in an insitution by her family

“I staged a parody against the far right and bigotry during the pride march in Budapest in 2014,” he says.

“Pretty soon I was targeted by neo-Nazi groups and individuals.

“I received hundreds of threats. Insults, death threats, calls for lynching, it’s been really terrible and that’s just because I was fighting for my right to exist.”

When Andrea becomes emotional and apologises for talking too much, Luchia encourages him to continue.

Chatting from her home in Chorlton, Manchester, she says: “Go on, feel free to talk. This is an open, democratic debate we’re having. It’s OK to talk about whatever journey you are on, you’ll feel better…”

Andrea dressed as a priest, left

Andrea details how he became the victim of police brutality and later left Hungary, his home for 12 years.

He took his case to the European Court of Human Rights but it decided he had been treated fairly.

“They recently are restricting LGBTQ rights to a minimum, they have always been anti-Roma, anti-women actually,” Andrea says.

“I wanted it to make people think about the way minorities are treated.

“I wanted to call these power structures out – they have no right to say whether we exist.

“I’ve been a victim of this system for seven years now. I became a target for neo-Nazi and ultra-Catholic groups and it was pretty terrible.

“Threats to kill me, rape me… my details were published online, I had to move house many times.

“It became a witch hunt. I’m sorry…”

Luchia in her younger days

Shaking her head, Luchia comforts him: “Don’t ever apologise for where you’ve come from and where you stand and where you intend on going.

“I was brought up in Ireland and I was born in a mother and baby home so I know all about the church. More power to you, love, for taking all these people on.” As the chat continues, Luchia shares details from her past.

“I’ve been an activist since I was 17 or 18,” she explains. “I ran away from shocking oppression in Ireland because I was going to be put into a lunatic asylum – for being gay.

“So, I ran away and lived on the streets for a few years. I was about 15.

“I overheard some women speak one night in a club about the Gay Liberation Front and I didn’t know what it was.

“I joined and I went from being a non-political person, with no schooling, I could barely read and write because I had dyslexia, and someone who knew nothing about the world to being active.

“We went on, with others, to achieve a lot around women’s rights, LGBT rights. I’ve spent my whole life taking the system on. I mouth off and kick off everywhere I go if I see something I think is unjust or unfair. We’re not trying to take over the world, we just want the world to recognise their wrongs and out them right.

“Everyone is important, you’re a human being and you have the right to walk the streets like the rest of us, I just want my place as everybody should have theirs.”

The Mirror’s Europe Talks project

Andrea says: “That’s exactly what I fight for as well. Human rights – respecting other people’s existence.”

As Luchia details her marches against anti-gay laws during the 1980s, she tells Andrea: “Solidarity is so important. You have to be a movement, otherwise, if you’re just an individual they’ll pick you off.”

“We did get a lot of rough stuff but what was scary was the Prime Minister came on and told us all we all had a bloody cheek to think we belonged to a civil society, that we were demons of the world, we should be made illegal.

“We live in the North of England, and thought, ‘Nobody is going to tell us what to do’, especially a Tory. So we
hit the streets and we won the day.

“There was a march in Manchester. Everyone in the town that was gay and un-gay got together.

“There was thousands of people. Sir Ian McKellen gave a great speech… it was marvellous, we got this thing stopped because of the way everybody hit the streets.”

Leaning forward, she adds: “Join a group and get that group to swell up because that’s what we did.

“We started off as individuals but we realised if you want to take on the state you’d better get an army of you, from all walks of life.”

“Thank you,” Andrea says. “That’s a great story and really, really inspiring.

“In my own small world, as an independent activist, I did it all by myself but, yes, you are right.”

“We need solidarity,” smiles Luchia.

“Maybe we can carry on talking another day?” Andrea asks.

“Yes, of course we can,” Luchia agrees. “We need to keep talking.

“Hatred splits everybody, understanding brings some sort of togetherness, where you get to a common ground where we all work together. United we’re strong, divided we’ll fall.”

  • It’s nearly time for Europe Talks 2021! Sign up to be matched for a videocall with someone from Europe this weekend at mirror.co.uk/europetalks


See also  How much money will descaling your kettle REALLY save on energy?

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.