After the attack on the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the women there also got involved in war-related work. Some joined the army and started fighting in the war, while some took the initiative to deliver food and other goods to the soldiers and civilians.
Svitlana Taranova joined the Ukrainian army in the southern city of Mykolaiv, her birthplace, the day Russia launched an invasion of her country. Taranova, about 50 years old, was a manager in a construction company before that.
During the war, after the occupation of Kherson by the Russian army, about 70 kilometres away from there, Mykolivel was also under threat. The capture of Mykolaiv was necessary for the Russian army to capture the city of Odessa, the transport hub of the Black Sea.
That’s why the Russians started firing cannon balls on Mykolive on a large scale and in a systematic manner. Taranova said, “At 11 o’clock in the morning of February 24, my contract with the Territorial Defense was signed. It was not a sacrifice, but the only decision possible at that time.”
Contribution to war
After joining the infantry, Taranova would often engage in close combat with Russian soldiers. “Initially I was very scared of cluster bombs, my heart used to stop beating every time one went off,” he said.
But then determination took the place of fear. “I no longer feel the need to hide. All I want is revenge,” says Taranova. When an AFP team was in Mykolaiv in September and October, the city was bombed every night.
An AFP team discovered that while Taranova was fighting in the war against the Russians, other women were contributing to the war in other ways. “We are fighting here too. We feed the soldiers,” said 41-year-old Svitlana Nichuk, who works at a bakery.
She was watching an emergency unit clear the debris of an old apartment block in the city center when an AFP team met her. The bakery she works in is on the ground floor. The bakery was also badly damaged.
Involved in other ways
Julia, who lives nearby, told that her apartment has been attacked thrice. Julia, about 30 years old, works in IT and had moved to comparatively safer western Ukraine with her daughter.
Life is returning to the Ukrainian territory that came out of Russia’s occupation
But she often returns to Ukraine, mostly to distribute vehicles or military equipment acquired through online appeals she has started. In another neighbourhood, a musicologist named Julia Kirkina plays the piano and goes to a restaurant every Friday.
She says, “Music is one of the best medicines for the soul. My vocal therapy helps people stay calm and optimistic.” Local officials in Mykolaiv say the city was hit by Russian artillery for 262 days and barely survived 50 days of bombardment.
Then, on 13 November, Kherson was recaptured by Ukrainian troops and Mykolaiv was no longer part of the frontline of the war. By then more than 150 residents of the city had been killed and more than 700 were killed.
No time to panic
Between 3,00,000 and 5,00,000 people left the city. According to the local administration, about 80 per cent of the women had also left the city, due to which almost only men were left in the city.
But psychoanalyst Irina Viktorovna says that despite being in a vulnerable position, many women in Mykolaiv do not see themselves as victims. Viktorovna said, “He has no time to panic or lose control of himself.”
Although he admitted that there have been some cases of breakdown. Locals told AFP by phone that the military threat had been removed for the time being but life was still very uncertain.
Life has changed
As elsewhere in Ukraine, power, water and heat outages are common due to Russia’s targeting of civilian energy systems. Aleksandra Savitska, who previously worked as a hairdresser, has not been able to return to her old job.
Now she and her husband run an NGO under which they distribute food and other items among soldiers and civilians. In a video posted on Savitska’s Instagram account, 25-year-old Savitska is seen wearing a helmet and a safety jacket after distributing food and other items in kheras.
“My life has changed radically. I used to beautify women. Now I’m a volunteer. That’s my job,” he told AFP by phone.