Think of the word “soldier”. Your mind probably creates the image of a white man in uniform, armed, and ready to serve his country. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault you associate a masculine connotation with the word. What you picture has been depicted in photographs, textbooks, media, and has been accurate for most of political history. The visibility of women in military service hasn’t been represented very prominently and for not very long. For women in Ukraine it’s been a mere 6 years since they were given the equal rights within military service in 2018.
The devastating news of the invasion of Ukraine swept headlines across the globe on February 24th this past year. Since then Ukrainian soldiers, civilians, and officials have sacrificed everything to protect their nation over the last eight months and continue to do so. Across the borders of Ukraine the country has received mass amounts of support through military, financial, and medical aid from various nations.
But how are the women of Ukraine doing? What roles do they have in this war? What are they being asked of?
We all know the image of “Rosie the Riveter”. She’s shows strength in her eyes, her clenched fist, and her encouraging words telling us that “we can do it!”. She was the depiction of women during World War II from their control over domestic jobs and operations when men were drafted for war. Over the course of events and time the same image has spawned into the uniform strength in all women of Ukraine. 80 years later NY Times reports over 50,000 women are enlisted in the Ukrainian army and more and more volunteer as this crisis continues. Regardless if she is a mother protecting her kids, a soldier battling on the front lines, a doctor overwhelmed with injured patients, or just a woman scared for her life and hoping to make it through the scariest experience she’s endured; their contributions and persistence inspires women across the world.
One story in particular that stuck with me is the continuing bravery of Alyona Zub-Zolotarova. In her accounted story with New York Times she describes how the most drastic and devastating change in her life happened in a matter of minutes. Her and her family entered the crisis with generosity, offering spare food to neighbors and families that needed it more. Then the bombings of her family’s neighborhood erased any extra thought other than protecting her son Zakhar and ensuring bringing him to a safe place. It’s unimaginable to feel the immense sadness Alyona experienced driving through a place she once recognized as home. With her husband staying to join the war effort Alyona had to show a brave face for her son, despite fears of the unknown. While evacuating she witnessed people dying and inhumane treatment from Russian soldiers that will stick with her forever. Despite this trauma and all Alyona endured she says,”I don’t have the right to cry.” She believes she is lucky and refuses to complain for the sake of those who lost loved ones or their own lives.
Embedded below is a clip from the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which shows interviews of women who are not only going off to fight on the front lines, but also women who are doing the most they can for their community.
The women of Ukraine have gone above and beyond to protect the neighbors and family they love, and in doing so have inspired generations younger and older.
This is not the time or place to be divided or discriminate based on gender. If he or she can do the job, let them do it.