Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held most of Congress spellbound last night with his stirring speech, in English, on the importance of Ukraine’s victory over Russia’s invasion. His leadership and communications strategies have been compared to Churchill during World War II. Behind Zelenskyy, though, in addition to the extraordinarily brave military, are millions of Ukrainian women holding the country up and moving it forward.
The Ukrainian military is about 15% female, with approximately 56,000 female troops, including among those dying for their country in this brutal war that Russia started against the sovereign nation of Ukraine.
“There are many women serving in the Armed Forces in Ukraine. In terms of the number of female military personnel, we are, if not ahead, then among the first, even by NATO standards,”
Deputy Defense Minister Anna Maliar said in part during an October event in Kyiv called “Male and Female Defenders. Defenders and Defenders. Equal Opportunities to Protect the State – a Basic Element of National Resilience and Sustainable Development,” according to the Kyiv Post.
While most Ukrainian men are on the frontlines to save their country, the Ukrainian women not in the military or government, are in hospitals, schools, day care centers, shelters and food services, as well as in universities and businesses are keeping the country afloat. These women are modeling resilience on a whole new level.
They include Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Zelenskyy, Juliia Mendel, President Zelenskyy’s former press secretary, who is staying in Kviv and using her communication skills to keep Ukraine top of mind across the globe, including with her new book, The Fight of Our Lives.
They include Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation. “I think Ukrainians have shown to all the world that we’re not going to stop and we’re not going to surrender. And we will defend our homes.”
There are also the women of Ukraine’s Parliament and at refugee camps, and Natalie Jaresko, the former finance minister, who is advocating for private and public support for Ukraine and is using her experience rebuilding Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria to help her prepare for rebuilding Ukraine.
Here are eight tips for being resilient from watching these extraordinary women:
· Appreciate small wins – A food kitchen opening, a fire that warms you, a gas stove that still works when the electricity goes out. A clean shirt or a shower in a shelter. New funding announced from your allies in the United States or Europe. We can easily take things for granted, until we don’t have them. Appreciate them now.
· Don’t compare yourself to others – Just notice when you move forward.
· Focus on moving forward – One step at a time. One smile at a time. “Do one small thing a day,” Jaresko said on Electric Ladies Podcast.
· Be resourceful – Examples of Ukrainian women finding ways to provide food, shelter and clothing for their families abound, including from generous donations.
· Do what you can with what you have – Jaresko said, “local communities are engaging and acting. They’re not waiting for instructions from above….There is a real effort underway to keep as much business going as possible…. which again tells you about resilience, about strength.”
· Find joy – The pianist at the border whose glorious music lifts your spirits. The small child laughing in a train station.
· Find a support system – It can be a family member, friend, neighbor, or complete stranger you meet in a shelter or online. You are not alone. Let them buoy you.
· Focus on your “why” – Your core values that are the foundation of your choices.
While Dictionary.com chose “woman” as the word of the year for 2022, it’s worth remembering that one thing at the core of what made women so critical this year is their resilience.
These Ukrainian women exemplify that resilience and teach us a lot.
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