Ukrainian Women at War

Women in Ukraine have few options available to them, none of which are good. They can flee, fight, or stay in their homes. Many women are choosing to flee to safer areas, especially when they have young children. Some women are taking up arms and fighting the Russian invaders. Others are making Molotov cocktails and borscht to feed and supply the Ukrainian forces. The women of Ukraine are making the best of their limited options during this time of fear, death, and uncertainty.

Almost three million people have fled Ukraine as of March 16, according to the UN, and a large majority of these refugees have been women and children. According to BBC, “Seen from the Moldovan border, Ukraine is a nation of women. Mothers and grandmothers, wheeling suitcases to safety, leading their children into the unknown.”[1] This is because the men aged 18-60 in Ukraine are being told to stay and fight rather than flee the conflict. Polina Shulga has evacuated from Kyiv and gone to Hungary with her three-year-old daughter. About her choice, Shulga said, “I feel like I’m responsible for my child, so it was easier for me to take this step and leave.”[2] A woman named Ana along with her six-year-old granddaughter arrived at Palanca, Moldova with a small car and as many belongings as they could bring with them.[3] In some circumstances where there are relatives or friends across the border, children are being evacuated while the parents return to fight in Ukraine. This is the case of Victoria from Irshava who brought her two daughters to some relatives in Hungary and is returning to her husband in western Ukraine.[4] For some Ukrainian women, fleeing their homeland to protect themselves and their children is the best choice amid the current conflict.

For other Ukrainian women, their choice is to take up arms and fight the Russian invaders. One of the most poignant quotes about their choice to fight comes from Kira Rudik, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament. She said, “I planned to plant tulips and daffodils in my backyard today. Instead, I learn to fire arms and get ready for the next night of attacks on Kyiv.”[5] The New York Times posted a video on their twitter that shows a couple women with guns who are waiting to be deployed to fight in Kyiv. One of the women, Julia, is seen crying in the video as she says, “I just want to live in our country, and that’s all… It’s awful.”[6] These brave women mentioned above are not itching to fight Russian soldiers nor are they career soldiers. They are brave people who are stepping up to give their blood for their nation and they will stand next to those who have been enlisted in the Ukrainian military for years. Many different types of people are fighting this war together.

Unlike the saying where there are three choices: fly, fight, or freeze, many women who are staying and not fighting are not frozen in fear; they are making borscht and Molotov cocktails to support the fight. For example, five women in Dnipro, Ukraine coordinated a large community gathering where donations were used to make Molotov cocktails all afternoon.[7] They are using the instructions given by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense which sent out information on these handmade bombs in order to promote people making and using these as weapons against the Russian forces.[8] These women did not want to spend their afternoon this way, but “[t]hey feel like they have to defend their land, they have to defend their city, and so they’re preparing.”[9] The women of Dnipro are not the only ones supporting Ukraine’s cause by making homemade bombs; a woman in Kyiv, Kateryna Yurko, has helped to make thousands of Molotov cocktails within just a few days.[10] She is the owner of a store in Kyiv that supplies necessities such as oil and she has kept her store open despite nearby bombings because of the  goods she provides are essential to the Ukrainian forces. In addition to the goods in her inventory, she has used up to 4,400 pounds of gasoline making several thousand Molotov cocktails with some friends. She said, “The two most important things a Ukrainian woman needs to know is how to make borscht and Molotovs.”[11] The borscht is used to help feed the volunteer military unit and the Molotov cocktails are to arm the volunteer soldiers and the people. Many women in Ukraine are demonstrating their bravery through their non-military efforts, adding to the sacrifice of the male and female soldiers who are fighting the Russian Invaders.

-S.F.R.


[1] “Ukraine conflict: Children on their own, parents stay behind.”2022. Mar 16,. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60539104 (Mar 16, 2022).

[2]Spike, Justin, and Bela Szandelszky. 2022. “On global holiday, a ‘terrible dream’ for Ukrainian women.” Mar 16,. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/kind-terrible-dream-ukrainian-women-refugees-83313466 (Mar 16, 2022).

[3]  “Ukraine conflict: Children on their own, parents stay behind.”2022. Mar 16,. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60539104 (Mar 16, 2022).

[4]  “Ukraine conflict: Children on their own, parents stay behind.”2022. Mar 16,. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60539104 (Mar 16, 2022).

[5]Hesse, Monica. 2022. “The strength of Ukrainian women is on display.” Mar 16,. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/03/01/ukraine-women/ (Mar 16, 2022).

[6] https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1497988680723701761

[7] Rainsford, Sarah. 2022. “Ukraine conflict: Terrified but coping, residents of Dnipro jolt into action.” Mar 16,. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60542523 (Mar 16, 2022).

[8]Cocksedge, Charlie. 2022. “Ukraine: Women Come Together To Make Molotov Cocktails To Fight Russians.” Mar 16,. https://www.unilad.co.uk/news/ukraine-women-come-together-to-make-molotov-cocktails-to-fight-russia-20220226 (Mar 16, 2022).

[9]Rainsford, Sarah. 2022. “Ukraine conflict: Terrified but coping, residents of Dnipro jolt into action.” Mar 16,. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60542523 (Mar 16, 2022).

[10]Kottasová, Ivana. “Borscht and Molotovs: How one Ukrainian woman is supporting her country.” Mar 16,. https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-putin-news-03-02-22/h_a8981f92b7b2df0c86a3490df307b2d2 (Mar 16, 2022).

[11]Kottasová, Ivana. “Borscht and Molotovs: How one Ukrainian woman is supporting her country.” Mar 16,. https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-putin-news-03-02-22/h_a8981f92b7b2df0c86a3490df307b2d2 (Mar 16, 2022).

Additional References:

Michelson, Joan. 2022. “Women Making History Today In The Ukraine War: International Women’s Day 2022.” Mar 16,. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanmichelson2/2022/03/07/women-making-history-today-in-the–ukraine-war–international-womens-day-2022/?sh=14dee3617cb6 (Mar 16, 2022).

Rainsford, Sarah, John Hughes, and Tony Brown. 2022. “Ukraine conflict: The women making Molotov cocktails to defend their city.” Mar 16,. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-60540341 (Mar 16, 2022).

Image Sources:

Valentyna Konstantynovska holds a weapon – Valentyna Konstantynovska, 79, holds a weapon during basic combat training for civilians. (Vadim Ghirda/AP) – https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/03/01/ukraine-women/

Kateryna Yurko – Kateryna Yurko said that she and her friends have made several thousand Molotov cocktails in recent days. (Ivana Kottasova/CNN) https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-putin-news-03-02-22/h_a8981f92b7b2df0c86a3490df307b2d2

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