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Fearing for their lives, Serbian gay couple seeks refuge in Calgary

WATCH: A gay couple who came to Calgary as refugees took on the fight of their lives to be recognized in their home country. In the end, they paid a high price for being themselves. Jill Croteau has more in part 1 of the series Walking with Pride.

He was in his early 20s, gay and living in Serbia. Boban Stojanovic was born and raised in a country where most people condemned homosexuality. But for him, living in secret wasn’t an option.

“There was something inside of me that tell me, maybe coming out will be wrong decision,” Stojanovic said. “Everything I learned about LGBTQ was negative and I know there can be a high price for this decision. But it’s your inner fight. What kind of life you want to live?”

READ MORE: Calgary police charge man after Pride crosswalk vandalism

When he revealed his true self, he became invisible to his family.

“I was ready to pay for my decision and take responsibility for my life.”

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While he dealt with the loss of contact with his family, Stojanovic also saw an opportunity to become an activist for those facing the same struggle.

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“I was dedicated to human rights and activism and LGBTQ and together with my partner [Adam] we decided to do the most risky and radical thing and that was organizing Pride event in Serbia’s capital city of Belgrade,” Stojanovic said.
Speaking to media at Pride in Belgrade.
Speaking to media at Pride in Belgrade. Courtesy: Boban Stojanovic

His partner, Adam Puskar, knew they were taking a chance in standing up against the majority.

“There is about 1,000 brave citizens who came to support you and 1,000 police officers around you,” Puskar said.

Preparing for Pride event.
Preparing for Pride event. Courtesy: Boban Stojanovic

Their advocacy made them a target; their lives were threatened on a daily basis.

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“I was attacked many times on the streets; verbal provocation on a daily basis just for walking on the street,” Stojanovic said. “My apartment was attacked twice. First time by neo-Nazis in Belgrade.

“They burned window frames and drew swastika on the wall of my apartment.”

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“It was difficult because I was that person who always tried to protect him,” Puskar said. “I never feel freedom and I always go behind him one or two steps.”

Boban & Adam in Canada
Boban & Adam in Canada Courtesy: Boban Stojanovic

The two decided they had to leave and came to Calgary. With just two suitcases and over 1,000 pages of documented evidence to prove their lives would be in danger if they returned home, they started their new life.

“We decided to leave in order to save our lives,” Stojanovic said.

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“We couldn’t control the situation anymore. We were scared for our lives literally.”

READ MORE: Decision to deny Alberta political parties from 2019 Calgary Pride Parade upheld

But they said the sacrifice was worth it — being in Canada brings them a feeling of freedom they never experienced.

Adam Puskar and Boban Stojanovic
Adam Puskar and Boban Stojanovic Jill Croteau/Global News

“We were pioneers in this field but looking back we can see this room is ready for younger generations,” Stojanovic said. “We built this house for them so now they can fight.”

WATCH: Global Calgary’s award-winning series Pride Without Prejudice