March is Women’s History Month, and since I use this Journal space to share inspiration, this week I’m honoring the women of Ukraine - From those who have volunteered to fight in the war to defend their country, to the refugees who have left their husbands and loved ones to seek safety for their children. Their strength and courage are the epitome of inspiration, and I'm inspired to look for ways to support them in their struggle.
It can be easy to feel apathetic when Ukraine is so far away, but Ukraine is Eastern Europe, and where I grew up in the U.K., that wasn't that far away. Our borders are close, we intermingle with ease, have friends who speak other languages and share the same values of freedom and democracy. The terrifying fact is that all of Europe is affected by this war on Ukraine and we can’t think that this will not change how the world looks. The determined resolve that the Ukrainian people have shown to stand united and fight for their country is extraordinary. We are in a moment in history that will define not only how courageous they are, but how compassionate we are.
Under martial law, Ukrainian men are required to stay back and fight the Russian invasion, but many women are joining wartime efforts as well. From politicians to beauty queens, women from all over the country have taken arms to defend Ukraine, their homes and their families. These newly armed civilians and members of paramilitary groups are fighting under organizations like Territorial Defense Forces.
Ukrainian Parliament Member, Kira Rudik (top left in the image below) was planning to plant tulips and daffodils in her backyard, but instead she learned how to use a firearm to get ready for the next night of attacks on the city of Kyiv. She had never held a gun in her life, but she formed a resistance group where she and others learned how to use firearms to defend their country.
Photos courtesy: (top left) Twitter/Kira Rudik, (top right) Lynsey Addario/NYT, (bottom left) BBC, (bottom right) BBC. Top Featured Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Russia has almost 900,000 active military personnel, while Ukraine has around 200,000. Despite the disparity, Rudik and others remain positive. "It’s a David vs Goliath situation. But what I like most, how after the battle David became a king and built a strong state. This is what we will do." explained Rudik on Twitter.
Photo Courtesy: Lynsey Addario/NYT
When Ukraine enacted a law to require men ages 18 to 60 to remain in the country, many wives left their husbands and fathers behind to protect their children. Nearly one and a half million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to a U.N. top refugee official, and the numbers continue to grow daily. This mass exodus is believed to be the highest number of people displaced in the shortest amount of time since World War II. And it has proven to be an extraordinarily difficult and long journey for many.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Photos Courtesy: (top left) Andrea Alexandru/AP News, (top right) The New York Times, (bottom left) Nikolay Doychinov/AFP, (bottom right) Visar Kryeziu/AP News
And if women and children haven’t fled, they are hiding out in basements and bomb shelters caring for their children. The basements of many maternity hospitals in Ukraine have been transformed into bomb shelters and nurseries, and women are giving birth and caring for their newborns with the sounds of air raid sirens, explosions and gun fire.
Photo Courtesy: Lynsey Addario/NYT
One of the many things I find unfathomable is that the fighters of Russia and Ukraine are not distinguishably different other than the color bands they wear on their sleeves. They are neighbors, many speak the same language, and were even friends until a couple of weeks ago. Now foes, the fight has no honor except for Ukraine’s purpose - to defend Europe's two highest values - freedom and human dignity: two values that were a given for them one day and then taken away the next. If this isn’t a reminder that none of what we have today should be taken for granted, then I can’t think of what is.
In these kinds of situations, I often feel like I want to help, but I don't know how. And when I think of a way, it feels like a minuscule attempt to help solve a massive problem. And yet, these women remind me, that any effort to step forward and stand for what you believe in is a valuable contribution to solving the problem.
To support the people of Ukraine, DIANI is donating five percent of all sales in store and online to Global Giving's Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. The donations will support humanitarian assistance in impacted communities in Ukraine and surrounding regions where Ukrainian refugees have fled. The funds will provide shelter, food, and clean water, health and psychosocial support, access to eduction, economic assistance and more. So far they have raised over almost ten million dollars with a goal of fifteen million. We are proud to help them reach that goal.
Here is a list of other reliable and verified organizations doing amazing work:
Bethany Frankel - B Strong
And if you want to dig a little deeper into the recent history of Ukraine and how it shaped the remarkable people we see today, check out the documentary, Winter On Fire on Netflix.
I'm hoping for continued courage, strength and resilience for all the Ukrainian women, men and children who are faced with incredible challenges as they unite to protect their country, and their freedom. We're all a part of humanity, and we're all in this together. Sending them and you all lots of love,
Winter on Fire is a remarkable film. It’s not easy viewing but puts into context the spirit of Ukrainians. Thanks for the referral!
Once again Caroline, so well stated and so important. My London born father, now 91 years of age and living in California, has shared with me this all reminds him of his childhood and the beginning of WW2. Like most of that generation, he is stoic and far from being prone to dramatization, making his comments particularly frightening. This is a worldwide crisis. Thank you for the donations being made from DIANI, and strength to all fighting in one way or another for freedom, independence and humanity.
This is gorgeous, Caroline! Thank you for sharing your heart and compassion…I believe this IS how we in sunny SB and everywhere else, can help! Let’s keep raising the frequency!