Published on: 08/03/2022 – 06:53Modified on: 08/03/2022 – 06:58 Since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, female faces who resist on Ukrainian territory have been everywhere in the media. On the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, France 24 examines the exceptional commitment of Ukrainian women in the war. “I would like to begin by saluting the incredible courage of the women of Ukraine who are fighting, who are forced to find shelter for their loved ones in bunkers, who give birth in metro stations and who lead the fight on the front line, said Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, in her opening speech to evoke International Women’s Day 2022, inevitably focused on Ukraine this year. I pay tribute to their courage, strength and resilience in these particularly dire circumstances.”
War in #Ukraine changed people’s lives forever.During @EP_GenderEqual I commended the incredibly brave women of 🇺🇦: fighting, sheltering loved ones in bunkers, giving birth in metro stations, leading on the frontline. Women testament to courage, strength & resilience. #IWD2022 pic.twitter.com/HuX1zrfjFC— Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) March 3, 2022
Seamstresses who make bulletproof vests and camouflage fabrics, mothers who take care of humanitarian logistics, students who take up arms… The list of examples of women involved in the war in Ukraine is long. “The courage of Ukrainian women is everywhere, congratulations to them!” Enthuses Nadia Myhal, president of the association Ukrainian Women in France, contacted by France 24. But this courage does not surprise the retiree who has lived in Paris for more 20 years old and participates in donation drives and fundraising through his association. “During the Donbass war in 2014, we had already seen how much Ukrainian women were present in the conflict. It is therefore natural to see them again enter into resistance, at different levels.”
Courage forged through the country’s history
For the volunteer and former teacher, this courage is largely explained by the country’s history. “The recent feminist movements have not had much to do with the major place occupied by Ukrainian women in this war. Since the Middle Ages, this country has been upset by wars. Ever since men left fight, women have become accustomed to taking responsibility for everything and making decisions within the family but also at local and national level. Women’s power has long been part of the Ukrainian mentalityto the point that one can almost speak of a matriarchal society.”>> To read also: “War in Ukraine: the total commitment of the inhabitants of Kiev in the face of the Russian invasion”It is therefore not surprising that women now make up 15% of military personnel. Olena Bilozerska, a lieutenant in the Ukrainian army, interviewed by France 24, is one of them. “I think in a few days I will be fighting on the front line, I hope, because this is my country, my land, I want to defend it and it is my duty to do so. I think I have enough experience to do it. I think any citizen capable of taking up arms should do so and go into battle.” There are also those who engaged in non-military armed resistance, civil territorial defense, in response to the appeal of the Ukrainian presidency on the first day of the war. Maria, a 22-year-old Kyiv resident, just graduated in international relations, took up arms on the second day of the conflict. “I was with a friend in the street and around us there was panic. People were terrified,” she explains in an article published on TV5 Monde. “We quickly understood that something had to be done to help our country regain its freedom. Since then, we have been patrolling the streets of Kiev, at two or three, four o’clock during the day and two o’clock at night”, recounts the young woman in a telephone interview while the tension remains high in the suburbs of the capital.
When they don’t take up arms, Ukrainian women still try to make themselves useful. Some are engaged in resistance networks by supplying food, equipment, medical supplies or fuel to members of the Civilian Territorial Defense or soldiers. Olena Zelenska, the Ukrainian first lady, is one of the faces of the country’s resistance. She also expressed her admiration for “everyday heroines” in a letter posted on March 1 on her Instagram account. She salutes in particular “those who care for, save and nourish […], those who continue to do their job – in pharmacies, in shops, in transport and in public services, so that life goes on and changes.” She finally paid tribute to “those who, without panicking, take each day their children to the crèche, where they are entertained with games and cartoons so that the children do not have the spirit of war, and to those who give birth under the bombs”. There are also those who have had to flee Ukraine and whose courage we must not forget, warns Nadia Myhal: “They left everything overnight in extreme conditions. Most of them did not flee the country to escape the war: above all, they put their children in safety because the vast majority of them are mothers”, continues the president of Ukrainian Women in France, who counts also take part in welcoming families. More than 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine in ten days. Half of them are children, according to the UN, which forecasts eventually up to 4 million refugees.
Women, the first victims of war
Fleeing combat zones is also a way for women to escape wartime rape. the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, declared on March 4 that Russian soldiers had committed rapes in Ukrainian cities, reported the agency Reuters, which specifies that it was not able to verify this assertion. Ukrainian local media meanwhile reported 11 cases of rape in Kherson, a city now under Russian control. “Women are always the most affected in conflicts. Women and children”, specifies Anastasia Mikova, co-director of “Woman”, interviewed in the program “ActuElles” of France 24. “I was brought to work in Syria and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and everywhere and at all times, women’s bodies are attacked as a weapon of war to destroy a nation.”
The former Miss Ukraine 2015 invites women to take up arms Saddened, the Ukrainian director is still proud of the attitude of Ukrainian women. “Women are making progress to guarantee their rights and a war is often enough to set back light years from all that we had been able to obtain. But here, women do not let themselves be defeated. I never I would have imagined that my architect, journalist and teacher friends would take up arms to defend their country. This is also what the women of today are, they are no longer fragile little beings waiting. I am very, very proud to see Ukrainian women.”
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