‘This is my land, I stay’: These Ukrainian women are among thousands choosing to fight, not flee.
USA TODAY.- Last month, Olga Kovalenko moved into her first apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine, and got engaged to her longtime boyfriend. Now she spends mornings cleaning her rifles and pulling people out of bomb-stricken homes.
When Ukraine enacted martial law and banned men 18 to 60 years old from leaving the country after Russia’s invasion Feb. 24, Kovalenko knew she’d never forgive herself if she left her homeland. She called her parents and volunteered to join Ukraine’s military forces.
“I wasn’t about to leave all the saving and defending to the men. I may be a woman, but I have no children, and I’m ready to fight,” Kovalenko told USA TODAY. “This is my land, I stay.”
Kovalenko is one of thousands of Ukrainian women refusing to flee as bombs have raged and cities have been bombarded, steadfast in their decision to defend their beloved home and extinguish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes for a swift victory. Women make up about 15% of the army, according to the Ukrainian government.
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Each day, Kovalenko said, her unit goes to different cities that have been hit by Russia’s relentless attacks. They evaluate the damage, help evacuate civilians and are ready to fend off Russian forces. Fortunately, Kovalenko hasn’t encountered a Russian soldier but said she would “do what’s necessary” to win the war.
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Kovalenko was born in Kyiv to a Ukrainian mother and Russian father – she said both her parents are proud. Her father said he stands with Ukraine and is “disappointed” with the invasion.
“I’m different. I’m half of each side in this war, but I choose to do what’s right. I choose to risk my life for my country; it’s what my Ukrainian blood tells me to do,” Kovalenko said.
Makeup artist wields weapons
Alona Bushynska, an Odesa native who was a makeup artist for 17 years, traded in her brushes for medical supplies and weapons. A few months ago, her biggest worry was scheduling her next client. Today, it’s protecting her unit and partners in a civilian task force in Ukraine.
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