women are changing ukraine

Garmasch_soldiers_468wKatja Garmasch at Eurozine:

Nothing new in the East: the weather on the front is hot. In the summer, the war gets worse. The war, officially called an Anti-Terrorist Operation or simply ATO in Ukraine, began in spring 2014, when Russian-backed separatist groups in the Donbas region demanded that Ukraine be split up. The Minsk agreement of 2015, which was supposed to end the fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels, did not ease the tensions, on the contrary. For Ukrainian soldiers, the situation even intensified, because many commanding officers would not allow them to return fire until the last moment, if the separatists opened fire. So if the agreement is to be observed, one is dependent on the West for assistance. Right now, it is very quiet here in Popasna, near the city of Sloviansk. The first shots are fired around midnight, when the OSCE observers go home.

The soldiers listen to bad patriotic Ukrainian rock, clean their weapons, play with the camp dog, smoke. Roksovana is the only woman among 20 men in this Intelligence Brigade, and one of 50,000 soldiers currently serving in the Ukrainian army or in volunteer battalions.

Roksovana is her nickname, she doesn't want to reveal her real name or show her face. She comes from Crimea, where her family lives and could get into trouble if her identity is made public. “It's better like this”, she laughs, “I don't have to put on makeup.” A few cosmetics utensils stand tidily arranged next to her bunk bed, above which there hangs a little guardian angel made of wood, a present from her niece. Roksovana is 45 and has no children. That's rare in Ukraine. Why did she become a soldier? Because, she says, it is her civic duty. Because she doesn't want to live in Russia.

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