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Since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, female faces resisting on Ukrainian soil have been all over the media. On the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, France 24 explores Ukrainian women’s exceptional commitment to war.
“I would like to start by welcoming the incredible courage of Ukrainian women who are fighting, forced to seek shelter for their loved ones in bunkers, giving birth at metro stations and fighting on the front lines,” she said. The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, inevitably focused on Ukraine this year in her opening remarks on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2022. I pay tribute to their courage, strength and resilience in these particularly grave circumstances.”
War in #Ukraine changed people’s lives forever.
During @EP_GenderEqual I praised the incredibly brave women 🇺🇦: those who fought, who sheltered loved ones in bunkers, who gave birth at metro stations, who led the front lines.
— Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) March 3, 2022
Seamstresses who sew bulletproof vests and camouflage fabrics, mothers who are engaged in humanitarian logistics, students who take up arms… The list of women involved in the war in Ukraine can be long listed. “The courage of Ukrainian women is everywhere, congratulations!” enthusiastically says Nadya Michal, president of the association “Ukrainian Women in France”, approached by France 24. But this courage does not surprise the pensioner, who has been living in Paris for more than 20 years. old and participates in donation and fundraising events through his association. “During the war in Donbas in 2014, we already saw how many Ukrainian women participated in the conflict. Therefore, it is natural to see them again enter into resistance at different levels.”
Courage steeped in the history of the country
For the volunteer and former teacher, such courage is largely due to the history of the country. “Recent feminist movements have nothing to do with the important role played by Ukrainian women in this war. Since the Middle Ages, this country has been shaken by wars. Ever since the men left to fight, women have become accustomed to taking responsibility and decision-making within the family, as well as at the local and national level. Women’s power has long been part of the Ukrainian mentality, to the point where we can almost speak of a matriarchal society.”
>> Read also: “War in Ukraine: the total dedication of the people of Kiev in the face of the Russian invasion”
Therefore, it is not surprising that women now make up 15% of the military. Olena Belozerska, a Ukrainian army lieutenant 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 this is my duty. I think that any citizen who is 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 President on the first day of the war. Maria, a 22-year-old from Kiev who had just graduated from the Faculty of International Relations, took up arms on the second day of the conflict. “I was with a friend on the street, and there was panic around us. People were terrified,” she explains in an article published on TV5 Monde. “We quickly realized that something needed to be done to help our country regain its freedom. Since then, we have been patrolling the streets of Kyiv at two, three, four in the afternoon and two in the morning.” , says a young woman in a telephone interview, as tensions remain high in the suburbs of the capital.
“Heroines of everyday life”
When they do not take up arms, Ukrainians still try to be useful. Some participate in resistance networks, supplying food, equipment, medicine or fuel to members of the Civil Territorial Defense or soldiers. Elena Zelenskaya, the first lady of Ukraine, is one of the faces of the country’s resistance. She also expressed her admiration for “everyday heroines” in a letter published on May 1.uh Marta on her Instagram account. She salutes, in particular, “those who care for, save and nourish […]those who continue to do their jobs – in pharmacies, in stores, in transport and in utilities, so that life goes on and changes. a nursery where they entertain with games and cartoons so that there is no spirit of war in children, and for those who give birth under bombs.
There are those who had to flee Ukraine and whose courage we must not forget, warns Nadia Michal. “They left everything for the night in extreme conditions. Most of them did not flee the country to avoid the war: first of all, they made their children safe, because the vast majority of them are mothers,” continues the president of the organization “Ukrainian Women in France” who also intends to take part in the reception of families. Over 1.5 million people left Ukraine in ten days. Half of them are children, according to the UN, which eventually foresees up to 4 million refugees.
Women, the first casualties of the war
Fleeing from war zones is also a way for women to avoid rape during war. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on March 4 that Russian soldiers had committed rapes in Ukrainian cities, Reuters reported, adding that it could not confirm the claim. Ukrainian local media, meanwhile, reported 11 cases of rape in Kherson, a city now under Russian control. “Women always suffer the most in conflicts. Women and children,” explains Anastasia Mikova, co-director of “Women”, in an interview with the “ActuElles” France 24 program. “I was taken to work in Syria and the Democratic Republic. Congo, and everywhere and at all times, women’s bodies are attacked as a weapon of war with the aim of destroying the nation.
Former Miss Ukraine 2015 urges women to take up arms
Saddened, the Ukrainian director is still proud of the position of Ukrainian women. “Women are making progress to secure their rights, and war is often enough to throw back light years all we could get. But there women do not allow themselves to be defeated. , fellow journalists and teachers would take up arms to defend their country. So are modern women, they are no longer fragile little creatures waiting. I am very, very proud to see Ukrainian women.”