“Women’s Battalions” and “Culinary Hundreds”: how Ukrainian women hold the sky of Kirovohrad region
Ukrainian women are real heroines, they fight on an equal footing with men, they give birth and raise children in basements, volunteer, and help their men. They dispel the clouds of insecurity, pessimism, troll the enemy, inspire others with their actions, act, and bring our Victory closer. I want to write about them in order to record their emotions, thoughts, and feelings for history. Kirovohrad region is the geographical center of Ukraine. The war here is close enough, and for those who are not on the front line, it can be heard through the sounds of sirens and explosions. The military threat has united women in a common goal, and despite the terrible news from the front, they continue to live and stay afloat.
"I'm not going anywhere because I'm at home!"
I’m speaking to Alina Samchenko after a nightly eight-hour continuous air alarm. In Kirovohrad region, it was relatively quiet until mid-March, except for air alarms for several hours. Alina wrote to me that she offered not to postpone the conversation and that she was ready to talk, even though she had spent the whole night with her seven-year-old son in the basement. This brave woman from Malovyskivska territorial community became a motivator for her colleagues and united the community residents. Alina is expecting her second child. However, she is an acting director of the local lyceum and has become the coordinator of the Culinary Hundred volunteer association.
"On the third day of the war, I woke up at 4 AM. I was troubled by the thought of how I could help. I can't take up arms, I can't lift heavy things. Because… I’m pregnant, in the eighth month. I am expecting my second child. But I knew I had to do something. The day before, the community ran out of bread and residents began to panic, buying yeast and flour. I had some yeast at home and decided to make pies. I baked them and already at 10 AM our defenders tasted my pastries at checkpoints in the community”, Alina Samchenko recalls.
Colleagues from the lyceum incessantly called Alina, offering help, promising support and they really wanted to get involved in the work. “All of the 100 employees of the lyceum are patriots, with an active civil position, were ready to support each other and their defenders. In our community, a headquarters was quickly established to coordinate the activities of all volunteers. The management of the headquarters was informed that our lyceum is ready to help. An order was received to prepare food for the defenders, who were on duty around the clock at checkpoints and at the military registration office. It started with the fact that we called all our employees. A lot of people came and not only the staff of the lyceum. We were divided into several teams. One team was making dumplings, another — organizing the collection of products, another team was weaving camouflage nets for our soldiers," said the Acting Head of the Lyceum of Malovyskivska community.
- Alina, what were the dumplings with?
"The fillings were different, but the girls say that our dumplings are charged with Victory and love! On the first day, we have made almost three thousand dumplings. And almost every day we continue to make more than 1,000 of them. Then the military staff asked us to switch to making cabbage rolls, meat dumplings. On our own initiative, we also make cookies in the form of hearts. At the Community headquarters, we were called "Culinary Hundred". You know, everyone in the community is involved in volunteering, absolutely every territory contributes and helps our defenders”, says the volunteer.
-Alina, you said you were expecting a baby. But you decided to stay at home, to organize the educational process for children, to volunteer, live in basements. You are a courageous woman! Maybe you would better go to Western Ukraine or abroad. Haven't you thought about it?
- I am sure that everything will be fine, I believe in our Armed Forces and the Victory of Ukraine. You know, I have the opportunity to go abroad to relatives, but I do not want to. Although someone will think I'm crazy. But now I need to be here, with my colleagues, family, friends. Not everyone can take up arms, but everyone can help at their workplace and volunteer. Imagine, if everyone leaves, then there will be no Ukraine. I'm not going anywhere because I'm at home. My child will be born in Ukraine, I really hope — after our victory. However, I already have an agreement with a local midwife who is ready to help me with the birth of a child. I know it’s a boy. My colleagues, jokingly, ask me the name of the newborn - Bayraktar or Javelin… I am convinced: life is victorious in Ukraine!
-Alina, if you had the opportunity to reach out to the politicians on whom the decision to close the skies over Ukraine depends, what would you tell them?
-As a mother of a 7-year-old son and a mother who is expecting another child in a month, I am convinced — there are no outsider’s children. And if they don't help us save our children's lives today, who knows what will happen to their own tomorrow. God forbid they ever hold a child's hand all night. Every mother is most worried about her child, about the children who are now at war. If the sky is not closed in time, children will die not only in Ukraine.
Oksana Moshniahul: "I appeal to all mothers of the world: help to close the sky over Ukraine!"
The war is testing communities for resilience, testing if communities can unite once again and repel the enemy or just be dumb slaves. "But the Russian occupiers will never break us, especially women," says Oksana Moshniahul, deputy director of the lyceum of Novoukrainska territorial community.
“Our most active women gathered on the first day of the war in the local house of culture, to discuss what happened. I confess, we were panicking, afraid, but understood that we should not watch the terrible news, but do something with our hands, then it will be easier for the head. We decided to weave camouflage nets first. They wove in silence because they were scared, but over time the anxiety passed. We understood that our men were fighting on the front lines and guarding our community, and we decided to open our own front - weaving nets, knitting socks, rugs, sewing balaclavas for Ukrainian soldiers. We will make dumplings, pies, help migrants so that they do not feel like strangers”.
Thus, the Novoukrainka Women's Battalion appeared in the community, and Oksana Moshniahul became one of its unofficial “commanders”. Today it has separate divisions in the city's neighborhoods, on the territories of the community, and even in Novoukrainskyi rayon.
"The battalion" mobilized women who want and can impart their skills for a common cause. We keep in touch through messengers, discuss ideas and help each other with materials and necessary equipment. In addition to nets, socks, the girls came up with the idea to weave seat mats for our soldiers. The idea turned out to be useful, they quickly made hooks, held master classes, and got to work. For mats, we use old jeans made of thick and natural material. All our products are talismans that, we hope, will protect and save the lives of our soldiers. And if we could put all of our nets together today, we would cover our whole region with them,” the volunteer sincerely admits.
Oksana says that today the community resembles an anthill: some protect relatives, serve on duty around the clock at checkpoints, others help IDPs, organize accommodation and meals for them, weave and sew for the military. Volunteer centers have been established in Novoukrainka, one of which is the city council.
Many women of «the battalion» have relatives on the front line. They are constantly in touch with them, support their relatives, and ask them to be resilient and bring Victory closer. "It is ungodly to drop bombs, the use of which is restricted by the Geneva Convention, on residential neighborhoods, to fire at maternity and other hospitals, to kill defenseless children and women. This is a genocide of Ukrainians, we will never forgive it. I appeal to all mothers of the world to help close the skies over Ukraine. This is just one request, and we will do everything else with our own hands, drive out the enemy and defend our communities”, Oksana addresses all those who care about the tears of children and mothers.
The enemy did not expect that in Ukraine he would have to fight not only with the armed forces of Ukraine but would meet fierce resistance from the people who are united and each in his and her place is approaching victory. Like these brave women who sew Ukraine together and hold its skies.
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