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Special project 19:30 22 Mar 2022

"You could use an armored vest, like Xena's," or how an activist who fought for women's rights, is now fighting for Kyiv

On February 24, Russia began its full-scale war against Ukraine. Since then, the whole world has been watching the heroism of Ukrainians who go bear-handed on Russian tanks, sing the national anthem in the face of occupiers, and radically change their lives to defend the usual life of the whole nation.

Rubryka begins a series of articles about those who defend Ukraine. Our heroes do it differently, but each and everyone is equally devoted.

The Faces of Ukraine's Defense is a project that will show the world what our defenders look like: women and men, doctors and the military, volunteers, and activists. All of them are defending our state. All of them are heroes of the new Ukraine.

Every Ukrainian should know their faces. The whole world must see them.

Morning, coffee, and the first explosions

"I was at home on the morning of the 24th. As I am in a relationship with a police officer, we were alerted at 5 o'clock. And at 5:30 I was in the kitchen, holding coffee, and heard the first explosion nearby."

Alina Sarnatska 34. She is from Kyiv, a psychologist and development manager of the Aeneas Club, a non-governmental organization that helps drug addicts and women who have experienced violence. In addition, Alina is fighting for the rights of sex workers and, as she says, is engaged in changing the law for the better.

On the evening of February 23, Alina wrote on her Facebook:

"Tell me, which organizations in Kyiv or online need professional psychologists as volunteers?"

And on the morning of March 7, a new photo of Alina in the uniform of the Armed Forces appears on Alina's Facebook profile picture. There is a smile on her face. In her hands, she holds a medical bag.

аліна сарнацька

"I am a psychologist by education. In addition, I am a Ph.D. student, and before the war, I wrote a dissertation on social work. And now I'm in the army. I am a medical assistant and I work at a checkpoint in Kyiv," Alina explains.

"Hey, show me the bone in more detail…"

In the first days of the full-scale war, Alina spent the night in the subway on Zhytomyrska station. There, she always told the subway staff that people with panic attacks or in a serious psychological state can be sent to her, she will help.

In a few days, under the sound of sirens, the woman was already conducting support groups for LGBT teenagers, while trying to get into the Defense Forces. Then it turned out that there was a shortage of paramedics in Kyiv.

"My training consisted of just one lesson. But a bachelor's degree in psychology gave me a lot. There we had assistance in crisis situations, it is now very helpful. Of course, it would be better if there was a person in my position with at least a secondary medical education. But professional doctors are now working not on home care, but on the second level. So now I am acting as a paramedic," says Alina.

On social media, she jokes about her own transformation, which has taken place over the past twenty days:

"A little about my tactical medicine. Two weeks ago: oh my god, the coach talks about a severed finger, eww. A week ago: oh my god, in the textbook there is a photo of a bullet wound, eww. Today: hey, show in more detail the bone in that burnt leg on the video."

аліна сарнацька

"An old lady yelled at me yesterday"

On her page, Alina actively shares stories about work, sports, writing a dissertation, and, of course, about her views. Photos in the form and a bunch of tips on how to save lives and minds during the war did not escape the attention of the "ordinary Russian people," who allegedly do not want war.

The girl has already been sent a letter from a protected e-mail, in which she was called a Nazi and threatened with the best traditions of terrorists and war criminals.

This, says Alina, was once. More often, she faces sexism, which she actively fought against in a peaceful life. Now, says the defender, it's not infuriating, because everyone has to joke about something.

"Today I called the police at work and the policeman said, 'Are you talking to me in a woman's voice from the checkpoint?' I was silent, then said, 'Damn, that's only one I have.' He apologized. He said he was very proud of me."

And yesterday an old lady yelled at me. She said that it was a shame for a woman to stand with a rifle. But since I'm standing with it, I certainly don't think so.

I am constantly told, "God, what a beautiful test." I've heard a phrase like "You could use an armored vest like Xena's, with tits!" 100 times. But it is perceived differently now than in peacetime, it does not infuriate me now," the doctor shared.

She explains that despite such jokes, nothing prevents her from working fully. It is sometimes said that girls need to be taken care of, but no one risks preventing them from taking care of their own country as they see fit.

"There many educated people among the volunteers. Almost everyone I meet has higher education. I think it has a strong impact," the woman concludes.

аліна сарнацька

"They're shelling my neighborhood here"

Aeneas Club, where Alina works as a development manager while continuing her work without her, helps women with food and medicine. The girl calls her colleagues real heroes and says that besides them, her whole family is also in Kyiv.

"They are shelling my neighborhood here. According to my relatives. No conversations or meetings are lyrically perceived now. I was amazed that I still feel like I'm weightless. Houses are exploding in familiar areas, and my family is in Kyiv.

I've shot before. But other people even loaded my weapons at the test site. And yesterday I noticed that in the ambush I am already quite used to getting on one knee and removing the weapon from the fuse. I don't know what can impress me after that. Everything that is happening is just surreal, "says Alina, and in a few minutes, she is rushing to someone who needs help now.

The material was prepared within the framework of the grant competition from the NGO "Internews-Ukraine" with the financial support of Sweden and Internews (Audience understanding and digital support project). The opinions expressed in the publications reflect the views of the authors only.

Матеріал підготовлено в рамках реалізації грантового конкурсу від ГО

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