Many Ukrainian women have decided not to leave their country and stay to fight the Russian invasion
“I ask Russian women not to remain silent while they kill us,” says Yulia Daniluk
Every morning, for several days now, Elena Ustymenko, a 35-year-old housewife, wakes up and no matter where she is, she looks at her phone to find out the war report. She tries to find out if her neighborhood in Kiev has been bombed, or if a missile has fallen on the house of her friends and acquaintances. She also calls her relatives in Bucha, a city where the Russian artillery is particularly vicious, to find out if they are still alive and have food. But Elena, who suffers from a skin disease for being born the same day the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in 1986 and who has spent several summers in Spain, thinks it’s inappropriate to show concern in front of her 6-year-old daughter, and that is why he tries to make everything happen before the girl wakes up. “Her little head of hers doesn’t understand what is happening and why there is a person who is doing all this to us,” she says as a thick tear slides down her cheek. “How can you understand that they fired on buses of people who were fleeing when, they said, there was a truce?” She asks.
International Women’s Day dawns like this this year in Ukraine, marked by terror and death, like the days of the last thirteen days. A war that is killing hundreds of thousands of people physically and psychologically, leaving behind women like Elena, a person with a haggard face from the flight from Kiev and the sleepless nights by bomb explosions a short distance away. She has escaped from Kiev to Lviv, where she got – along with her husband, a young computer scientist – a bed with relatives. However, not having her own car, her three-day journey to travel the 500 kilometers that separate these two cities has been a double nightmare. The bombs were falling on the places where Elena, and hundreds of other displaced persons, had slept hours before.
On one occasion, he even had to take refuge in a road hotel located in front of a power plant, one of the many strategic structures in the country that, since the beginning of the conflict, the Russian Army has chosen as a target, to weaken Ukraine, not only militarily, but also economically. Little did it matter. “There was simply no other place to sleep for a few hours,” she says, explaining that, also when he arrived at the crowded Lviv train station, he had the feeling of an apocalypse. “The last leg of the trip we did on a train that brought us from Ternopil to Lviv, and it took us seven hours to travel about 130 kilometers,” he says.
Psychotherapist Lina Naida, 39, also from Kiev, shares this feeling of uneasiness. “Women are fighting but at the same time we feel vulnerable,” she says, adding that this does not mean that “we are going to resign.” The history of Ukraine “is a complicated history, but we want to be independent and part of the European community, and we will not give up,” says Lina, adding that, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, she has a message for Russian women. “I ask you not to put your patriotic values above your ethical ones.”
Yulia Daniluk, from Lviv, says she has no intention of leaving her city. “I want to say to Russian women that they should come here, to Kiev, to Kharkiv, to Vinnytsia, and take their sons and husbands, dead or alive, I don’t care. We don’t want them here, they are killing us. Take them away! Do not remain silent while they kill us”, she affirms. And she adds: “This is terrifying. But we won’t go I will not leave my husband behind, and he cannot leave the country by decision of the Government”, he explains. In the apartment she owns on the outskirts of Lviv, whose large window incautiously overlooks an avenue, Yulia still keeps the bottles of beer that the family has consumed.
“The reason is that, if necessary, we would prepare some Motolov cocktails to defend ourselves,” explains this woman, mother of a 7-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy. “For now, however, the only thing we have done when we hear the sirens , is planting ourselves in the lobby, where two thick walls separate us from the outside”, he recounts.
In fact, taking up arms is these days less common among Ukrainian women, who have been more in the rear. It is also the case of Oleksandra, who was born in the Soviet Union (USSR), in a city that is now Russian territory and from which her parents left when she was just seven months old. This, however, Oleksandra does not want her to tell, just as she does not want her to know that she has family in Russia, something very common in most Ukrainians. The reason is that since the war broke out, Oleksandra joined the Ukrainian resistance, works with an important military leader, and has power because, in the Ukrainian village where she grew up, she knows everyone.
“These are hard times. It pains me to think of those very young Russian soldiers who are my son’s age, disoriented and don’t even know what they are doing. But now they are the enemy, they are attacking us”, he reasons, asking that we use a fictitious name and not refer to his location. “I love Ukraine more than anything else in my life. I am willing to die for this country. I will not leave, I will not escape, I will stay here until the end, ”she says convinced.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.