ARCHIVES Danyliw Seminar 2016
National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” (Ukraine)
Tamara Martsenyuk is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University “Kyïv-Mohyla Academy” in Ukraine. Among her publications is the chapter “Ukrainian Societal Attitudes towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities” (University of Toronto Press, 2012). She recently was a DAAD Visiting Professor (Germany) and a Petro Yacyk Fellow (Canada).
Ukrainian Women at War:
From Women’s Sotnya to Invisible Battalion
Recent events in Ukraine connected with the Euromaidan protests of 2013-2014 and later the armed conflict in the Eastern part, brought changes into women’s lives and their roles both in society and their families. On the one hand, the threat of violence makes women more vulnerable towards the socio-economic situation. For example, women are the majority among internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Eastern Ukraine responsible for children, the elderly, and disabled relatives. On the other hand, during these turbulent events Ukrainian women managed to challenge traditional gender roles (as caregivers and victims of conflict) and reclaimed visibility, recognition, and respect as revolutionaries and volunteers.
One of the most well-known examples is 21-year-old volunteer Olesya Zhukovska, who, after being struck by in her neck by a metal bullet on Maidan, tweeted: “I am dying.” Olesya survived and became known in Ukraine and abroad because of her dangerous situation. On November 21, 2014, in his speech commemorating the first anniversary of the Euromaidan protests, President Petro Poroshenko thanked not only the men, but also the women who died during the protests, as well as both male and female volunteers for their role in the events. Women were actively participating in all form of activities in the protest space of Maidan. Besides cooking, cleaning, and entertaining, women were fighting on barricades, negotiating and participating in peace-keeping initiatives, providing medical support, maintaining information support, participating in legislative work and logistics, and providing education for protesters and huge organizational support.
When the protests turned violent, women were excluded from much of the protest zone activities. As a reaction to this exclusion, women organized both military and non-military Women’s Sotnyas (or hundreds). Women made efforts to make their inputs into the Euromaidan more visible (especially compared with the Orange Revolution, where in memory politics “ordinary” women are almost absent as active “makers” of revolution). Later, when the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) started, women joined the front lines of Donbas war as volunteers, journalists, medical staff, and military. Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko became a symbol of resistance known worldwide. But female fighters, as well as women in the Ukrainian army in general, face gender discrimination, recognition and visibility problems.