The inspiring women of Ukraine have proved, through out, proud and active display, that men alone can’t save a country. Empowering visuals rising out from the ash and rubble that the Russian invasion is instigating in Ukraine show women ushering in a promise of hope. In a time of global panic, women are spearheading the spirit of Ukrainian grit, refusing to leave their motherland and picking up arms in its defence.
War is a benefactor to none. People lose families, children are orphaned, parks become graves. The pain of the loss is passed down through generations. And so, it seems surreal to be standing on the brink of a large-scale war, as experts are suggesting, less than a century after World War II ended.
Though largely touted as a war of men, between 1939 to 1945 during WWII, thousands of women were mobilised into combat and non-combat roles; they were majorly limited to the latter, offering ‘background’ support, owing to social constructs and sexism. But, like in every phenomenon that affects global populations, women were indispensable to the fight.
This time too, women in Ukraine are rising up in big numbers to come forward and serve their country best they can from neighbouring adversaries.
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Here are some inspiring women of Ukraine leading the fight from the front:
1. Ukraine’s First Lady gives hope
Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, is reportedly staying put in her country, rock solid beside her husband President Volodymyr Zelensky who has refused to go down without a fight. Given her high status, Zelenska is one of the best known women leaders in her country and is popular for initiating causes of gender equality and cultural progress in Ukraine.
With the country at war, she has remained connected to social media, sharing personal notes of encouragement and hope with her fellow citizens. “You are incredible! I am proud to live with you in the same country! And today I will not have panic and tears. I will be calm and confident,” she wrote in one post, promising to stand with the people of her country.
In another rousing post, sharing a photo of a baby girl born at a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Zelenska asserted that children of her country will awake to a peaceful future. Read more here.
2. Woman confronts Russian soldier
A video that went massively viral on social media marked the unwavering grit of Ukrainian women in wartime. “You’re occupants, you’re fascist!” a woman reportedly told a Russian soldier, confronting him alone in the middle of a road. As per reports, the video was shot in Henichesk, Kherson.
The armed soldier failed to intimidate her, as she continued to relay some very honest opinions about the invasion. “Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here,” she told him. When he urges her not to “escalate” the matter, she pertinently points out that Russian forces entered her country “uninvited.”
The unnamed woman was hailed as a lioness on social media, lauded for her daring in standing up to the soldier, unafraid of his machine gun.
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3. Women take up arms
While Ukrainian men between ages 18 and 60 have been officially ordered not to abandon their country and stay to fight the war, many women with the option of crossing the border and evacuating to safety are making a conscious choice not to. In moving visuals that are being brought to social media through real-time updates, Ukrainian women are seen wielding arms and rising to the occasion.
Member of Parliament and a political leader Kira Rudik, in posts that show her armed, wrote, “I learn to use #Kalashnikov and prepare to bear arms… Our #women will protect our soil the same way as our #men… This is our #city, our #land, our soil. We will fight for it. So next week I can plant my flowers. Here.”
Other viral photos show Ukrainian women preparing molotov cocktails, incendiary weapons, or sitting armed, waiting to be sent to fight the war. In an especially dramatic photo shared by New York Times, a female teacher-turned-volunteer was captured weeping with a weapon in hand, ahead of being sent to join troops in Kyiv.
4. Woman sings national anthem
A heartrending video of a Ukrainian woman cleaning glass rubble from her mother’s home while singing her national anthem has managed to move many online to tears. “Long live Ukraine,” she proclaims, looking out of the window, teary-eyed. As per reports, the apartment was part of the residences bombed during the ongoing Russian offensive in Kyiv. Watch here.
Russia, meanwhile, last week denied the conduction of missile strikes in Kyiv after Ukraine accused it of targeting civilian areas. However, various reports have verified Ukrainian claims.
Another video shows a Ukrainian woman, in military uniform, sending a ripple of hope to her audience, telling them, “I’m still alive, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, everything will be fine.” Read here.
5. Helping strangers
War is founded upon destruction. But like phoenixes, heartwarming stories are known to rise from the depth of the ashes. The range of all that is human is painted vividly during wartime. Several acts of selflessness are coming to the fore in a time when unrest has pushed people in Ukraine to prioritise their safety.
Reports have emerged of a young woman hailing from Haryana who has decided to stay back in Ukraine to look after her landlord’s family. The teen is a medical student and is sticking up for the family that sheltered her. This is a choice she has made in the face of rescue operations being initiated by Indian authorities to evacuate students in Ukraine back home.
In another viral story, a Ukrainian woman Nataliya Ableyeva ferried the children of a stranger to safety across the border to Hungary. A heartwarming video captures the moment the two women, one of them the mother of the two children, are caught in a tight embrace.
Views expressed are the author’s own.