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Here We Survive - The Women of Ukraine's Forgotten War

Although officially there is a Minsk protocol attempting to stop fightings in East of Ukraine, the war rages as ever. Around seven people die every day, the economical situation continues to worsen, people are forced to leave their homes. The country is torn apart. 

When talking about war in private, in politics and in public, the focus is usually on the man. Male soldiers, heroes, fighters. Courage, strength and heroism are traditionally associated with male attributes. The traditional female role instead is set aside, keeps being displaced from the public into the private, domestic sphere. The same is just happening in the current Ukrainian war.  What is behind the curtains of the public stage? How does the Ukrainian woman feel? What is her role in the war? And which kind of difficulties does she face? We set out to have a look behind the scenes of the Ukrainian conflict, to illuminate the female side.

This project was realized together with my friend and colleague Lisa Hermes www.lisahermes.de

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  “We always knew in advance when a shelling was imminent because our cat Ryzhik would always run under the bed a few minutes before. We were holding each other shivering and praying. Fi-nally our house was pretty destroyed by our ukrainian fellas from the 80th division, by a mistake. Te pro-Russian separatist were just in the house next to ours”

“We always knew in advance when a shelling was imminent because our cat Ryzhik would always run under the bed a few minutes before. We were holding each other shivering and praying. Fi-nally our house was pretty destroyed by our ukrainian fellas from the 80th division, by a mistake. Te pro-Russian separatist were just in the house next to ours”

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  „The war is evil. I am for peace“    

„The war is evil. I am for peace“

 

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 Lena’s (46) son, who just turned 20, was shot by a sniper near Mariupol. He wanted to save his comrade who was shot in the belly, but immediately caught a bullet in the neck himself.    “It is three months now that Roma passed away. Afer Roma‘s death all the pity to the other side had gone. My daughter Oksana is the only hope and joy which is left for me.“

Lena’s (46) son, who just turned 20, was shot by a sniper near Mariupol. He wanted to save his comrade who was shot in the belly, but immediately caught a bullet in the neck himself. 

“It is three months now that Roma passed away. Afer Roma‘s death all the pity to the other side had gone. My daughter Oksana is the only hope and joy which is left for me.“

 As a result of shelling on the 24th of May the psychological clinic in Semenovka (part of Sloviansk) was heavily damaged.

As a result of shelling on the 24th of May the psychological clinic in Semenovka (part of Sloviansk) was heavily damaged.

  “Donbass won’t be conquered. Our people stood up and said we won’t allow Kyiv junta to suppress us. Why should I quit speaking Russian, my mother tongue? Only for that threats we could rip their jaws.“

“Donbass won’t be conquered. Our people stood up and said we won’t allow Kyiv junta to suppress us. Why should I quit speaking Russian, my mother tongue? Only for that threats we could rip their jaws.“

  „If I didn’t have a son, I would be already fighting among the militias for my Donbass"    

„If I didn’t have a son, I would be already fighting among the militias for my Donbass"

 

  “I didn’t know how to cope with his death. I started baking cakes like mad, but it didn’t help. When I heard from a friend that he joined a volunteer battalion to fght against separatists, I fnally knew what to do. My mom couldn‘ t bear to leave our family fat in Luhansk. Nowadays she is afraid to go out on the streets because if the information about me, being a volunteer for the Ukrainian army, comes out, she won’t be safe anymore. Now that I’m on the ofcial death list of the separatists, the risk is even higher.”    

“I didn’t know how to cope with his death. I started baking cakes like mad, but it didn’t help. When I heard from a friend that he joined a volunteer battalion to fght against separatists, I fnally knew what to do. My mom couldn‘ t bear to leave our family fat in Luhansk. Nowadays she is afraid to go out on the streets because if the information about me, being a volunteer for the Ukrainian army, comes out, she won’t be safe anymore. Now that I’m on the ofcial death list of the separatists, the risk is even higher.”

 

 Nina‘s sister and her husband passed away due to stress and everyday fear during the war. The family lived in Semenovka, a village which suffered a siege in May 2014.

Nina‘s sister and her husband passed away due to stress and everyday fear during the war. The family lived in Semenovka, a village which suffered a siege in May 2014.

 Because of the lack of space, the bed is used as a table during the day. Alla (55) and her daughter Ljuba (32) and a granddaughter Margarita (14) are living in a home provided for IDP’s by the government. They share a room of 13 square meters. Here they cook, sleep, eat, wash and prepare homework.   „Our home in Makeevka, 30 km of Donetsk was burned. Here we do survive, not live".

Because of the lack of space, the bed is used as a table during the day. Alla (55) and her daughter Ljuba (32) and a granddaughter Margarita (14) are living in a home provided for IDP’s by the government. They share a room of 13 square meters. Here they cook, sleep, eat, wash and prepare homework.

„Our home in Makeevka, 30 km of Donetsk was burned. Here we do survive, not live".

 A fat in Semenovka which was destroyed by heavy shelling. The inhabitants of the house improvised a memorial for their relatives and friends which died in the house due to direct and indirect impacts of the war.

A fat in Semenovka which was destroyed by heavy shelling. The inhabitants of the house improvised a memorial for their relatives and friends which died in the house due to direct and indirect impacts of the war.

 Sveta (42) escaped from Donetsk to Sloviansk, leaving her husband and her 18 year old son in a a self-proclaimed Donetsk People‘s republic (DPR).   “One of the worst things in war for me was that I won’t be able to realize my dream and have a second child - a baby girl. My husband stayed in DPR to watch over our fats and I couldn‘t stand bombing anymore and moved to the territory of Ukraine. Ten during his short visits I got pregnant. I knew it’s gonna be hard - but I kept the baby. In fact, I receive only 800 Hryvnia for my baby a month. And I need to send money to my husband because he lost his job. So I must work and carry my 6 months old Sofa with me all the time when I show a fat for rent for a client”.

Sveta (42) escaped from Donetsk to Sloviansk, leaving her husband and her 18 year old son in a a self-proclaimed Donetsk People‘s republic (DPR).

“One of the worst things in war for me was that I won’t be able to realize my dream and have a second child - a baby girl. My husband stayed in DPR to watch over our fats and I couldn‘t stand bombing anymore and moved to the territory of Ukraine. Ten during his short visits I got pregnant. I knew it’s gonna be hard - but I kept the baby. In fact, I receive only 800 Hryvnia for my baby a month. And I need to send money to my husband because he lost his job. So I must work and carry my 6 months old Sofa with me all the time when I show a fat for rent for a client”.

 In January and February 2017 NGO’s were distributing supplies to the residents of Avdiivka on the football feld. The battle in winter 2016 left more than 17.000 people without water, electricity or heat. Due to extremely cold winter conditions, the Ukrainian government declared a state of emergency. 

In January and February 2017 NGO’s were distributing supplies to the residents of Avdiivka on the football feld. The battle in winter 2016 left more than 17.000 people without water, electricity or heat. Due to extremely cold winter conditions, the Ukrainian government declared a state of emergency. 

 One of the volunteer initiatives in Dnipro (which borders with Donbass) is a special room for commuting soldiers in the train station, open 24/7. Ladies serve tea and snacks, chat and make soldiers feel a bit more like home during long waiting hours.

One of the volunteer initiatives in Dnipro (which borders with Donbass) is a special room for commuting soldiers in the train station, open 24/7. Ladies serve tea and snacks, chat and make soldiers feel a bit more like home during long waiting hours.

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 Sosnovy bor, a sanatorium where IDPs from Donbass are temporary placed. The inhabitants put plastic covers over their balconies, fearing that their clothes would be stolen.  “The people have so little here, that they start stealing things from the others. The money given by the government is hardly enough to buy food for the whole family.” 

Sosnovy bor, a sanatorium where IDPs from Donbass are temporary placed. The inhabitants put plastic covers over their balconies, fearing that their clothes would be stolen.

“The people have so little here, that they start stealing things from the others. The money given by the government is hardly enough to buy food for the whole family.” 

  “We were trapped between the pro-Russian militants and the Ukrainian army – we were like between the sky and the ground. Te bullets were raining through the yard. And we were at home lying on the foor and were afraid to stand up for hours. I wasn’t afraid to die, I am more afraid of spiders.” 

“We were trapped between the pro-Russian militants and the Ukrainian army – we were like between the sky and the ground. Te bullets were raining through the yard. And we were at home lying on the foor and were afraid to stand up for hours. I wasn’t afraid to die, I am more afraid of spiders.” 

 Tanya moved to the former room of her grandmother. The old lady couldn’t stand living there anymore after the loss of her husband, who didn’t survive the tension of the war. Tanya is still positive: “Only two rooms were destroyed in the flat. Well, the kitchen, corridor and the toilet stayed untouched. We restored it with the help of the whole family and friends - not a big deal when you have such a big positive family.”

Tanya moved to the former room of her grandmother. The old lady couldn’t stand living there anymore after the loss of her husband, who didn’t survive the tension of the war. Tanya is still positive: “Only two rooms were destroyed in the flat. Well, the kitchen, corridor and the toilet stayed untouched. We restored it with the help of the whole family and friends - not a big deal when you have such a big positive family.”

 Irina started working as a military paramedic in 2014, when the war started. She belongs to the 8.5 per cent of women who are working in the Ukrainian military.     “Trough my income of this work, I can support the studies of my sons. But it’s also great fun here. In contrast to my marriage, I can now live more independent and at least experience something.” 

Irina started working as a military paramedic in 2014, when the war started. She belongs to the 8.5 per cent of women who are working in the Ukrainian military.  

“Trough my income of this work, I can support the studies of my sons. But it’s also great fun here. In contrast to my marriage, I can now live more independent and at least experience something.”