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The world has watched in horror since Russian forces further invaded Ukraine on 24 February in ‘the most significant military action in Europe for decades’.
The full-scale invasion by Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed over 400 lives and is thought to have displaced over 1.7 million people so far, but Ukrainians are refusing to back down.
The people of Ukraine have captured the hearts of the world, refusing to surrender and fighting for their country with everything they have.
President Zelenskyy and First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska are among them, with the country’s leader refusing safe passage for his family from the United States and famously telling them: ‘I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.’
At the forefront of the Ukraine war are women – volunteering in hospitals, reporting on the ground, campaigning for action and lining up to fight on the frontline.
In fact, this war is seeing more of a female presence than ever before.
‘Before the war, I once wrote that there are two million more women in Ukraine than men,’ First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska announced this month. ‘Statistics are just like that. And now it takes on a whole new meaning because this means that our current resistance also has a particularly female face.’
From military paramedics and trained soldiers to former beauty Queens and MPs who have never even picked up a gun before, women are front and centre.
This International Women’s Day, we stand with them and share their stories.
Women on the frontline in Ukraine
The female Ukrainian politician is the leaders of the Golos Zmin political party and a member of the country’s parliament. She is staying in Ukraine to fight for her country.
“I learn to use #Kalashnikov and prepare to bear arms. It sounds surreal as just a few days ago it would never come to my mind. Our women will protect our soil the same way as our men.”
The former Miss Ukraine who represented her country in the Miss Grand International beauty contest in 2015 has taken up arms on the frontline of Ukraine and is now fighting for her country.
‘I am not a military, just a woman, just normal human. Just a person, like all people of my country… I had a normal life just on Wednesday, like millions people. I don’t do any propaganda except showing that our woman of Ukraine – strong, confident and powerful. I appreciate all attention and support to my country, all people in Ukraine we fight every day against Russian aggression. We will win!”
First Lady Olena Zelenska has chosen to stay in Ukraine with her husband President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to lead their people. She is now said to be ‘Moscow’s target No.2’, according to her husband who is target No.1.
“Today I will not have panic and tears. I will be calm and confident. My children are looking at me. I will be next to them. And next to my husband. And with you.”
Olena Halushka is a Ukrainian activist, using her voice from Poland to campaign for #protectUASky and ensuring that the rest of the world is informed with the realities of what is unfolding in her country.
“Ukrainians have proved that we are capable of winning this war and defending our lives. But we need the West to step up more effectively, in particular with more air and missile defence.”
Korinne Sky is a 26-year-old medical student who has been raising awareness about the ‘forgotten’ African communities living or trapped in Ukraine and helping them secure safe passage and financial aid to get out of the country. She has founded the charitable organisation Black Women for Black Lives, which has so far raised over £90k to assist black communities to leave Ukraine safely.
“There is a massive misconception that there are no black people in Ukraine and it’s just white Ukrainians, so I spent the whole night and the next day trying to use my platform to spread information. Then the next day in Dnipro sirens started going off and they imposed a curfew. There were military everywhere, it looked like some sort of judgement day apocalypse movie. In the morning we left our apartment. I was supposed to get married on Saturday, and I left everything but I took my wedding dress. It sounds silly but it meant a lot to me.”
Kateryna Halushka is a trained military paramedic who is working on the frontline in Ukraine.
“I have only one country and I love her. Everything is here – my friends, my family, my history and my roots. I would not be able to leave Ukraine and escape from everything that is dear to me. In addition, I value freedom and resilience. This country gives me these important things and they are worth fighting for.”
Follow our ‘Women on the Frontline’ campaign to hear their powerful stories and how to support the people of Ukraine.
Please donate to Save the Children’s Ukraine appeal to help support the 7.5 million children in Ukraine who are now in danger.