Women soldiers have to fight to get to the frontline in Ukraine

Ukrainian army soldiers seen during a military training outside Zhytomir, 140 km (87 mile) east of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007.
Ukrainian army soldiers seen during a military training outside Zhytomir, 140 km (87 mile) east of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007. Copyright SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AP
Copyright SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AP
By Euronews
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Although one out of five soldiers serving in the Ukrainian army are women, they say they struggle to reach the frontline.

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Out of more than 400,000 soldiers currently serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, about 20% are women. But majority serve in supporting roles.

Oleksandra used to work in a bakery; today, she’s a sniper. She showcases her skills on a 100-metre range somewhere in central Ukraine. At the frontline, her targets can be more than a kilometre away. Her job takes skill and a certain mindset.

"I see my enemy, I see the occupier who came to our land to destroy our state, our people. Nothing more," she explains.

Oleksandra says many still question her ability to do this because she’s a woman. Females have long served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but few take part in combat.

"Every woman in the army has to show that she is worthy to be in the same combat position and fight on an equal footing with a man," she adds.

Her theory is that gender stereotypes can become self-fulfilling. As a sniper, you need to be invisible, she says. And women in general can be less emotionally driven than men, she suggests. But that’s not a view shared by many in the military.

Ukrainian government army women soldiers patrol an area in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec 24, 2014.
Ukrainian government army women soldiers patrol an area in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec 24, 2014.Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

Olena is also a soldier. Before the war, she was a communication trainer in Kyiv. A few months into the full-scale invasion, she signed up to join the army. She said felt she’d ignored the war for too long.

Now Olena clears trenches with the infantry. She had to push for a frontline job has now been decorated for her courage by president Zelenskyy himself. She says she has been accepted by her peers.

Two years into the war, as Ukraine struggles to fill the ranks, many women who want to follow her example have their own fight to win to do so.

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