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'They are beautiful and resilient': Ukrainian women celebrated on International Women's Day

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International Women's Day is a day that is widely celebrated across Ukraine, but this year, Ukrainian women are taking up arms to defend their homeland.

In a video that has been circulating on social media, Ukrainian women dressed in military uniform are seen holding rifles.

One of the women is heard speaking about fighting against the enemy.

According to the translation provided in the video, the woman says: "We are women of Ukraine. We have blessed our men to protect our land. We have taken our children to safety. The genetic fund of our nation is reliably protected. We join the men and the Ukrainian army. We will destroy the enemy on every inch of Ukrainian land in every city, every village, forest and field. For every child, woman, old man, ruined house, street, even barn, we will shoot you like rabid dogs. Glory to Ukraine! Death to enemies!"

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted on Twitter that more than 15 per cent of the regular Ukrainian army are women.

The number of those defending Ukraine now, is impossible to count. 

"During the war, gender disappears. Women and men just become one big family to protect each other. Every single person tries to do something because you feel guilty if you are safe," said Liliya Syvytska, a Ukrainian citizen studying film at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Guilt is an emotion Syvytska has been feeling lately as she hears stories of friends and family fighting for their country and saving lives, including her doctor friend Samantha Hughes, who recently delivered a baby in a bomb shelter.

"This happened during one of the first days of the war. When the bombs started to fall on the main cities, she grabbed one of her medical bags just in case, before she went and hid in the shelter with everyone. This woman went into labour and she jumped into action," said Syvytska.

"She's saving lives in a space, where you wish they never even needed to save lives in," added Syvytska.

It's one of the many stories of women spearheading the spirit of Ukrainian grit and helping any way they can.

"My 16-year-old goddaughter is making camouflage nets for the Ukrainian army. My mum and my sister help everyday with humanitarian aid, which is coming in large amounts from abroad," said Nataliia Sullivan, who spent most of her life in Ukraine. She now resides in Blaine, Washington with her husband.

"Some of them are taking care of kids, some of them are helping the army, some of them are joining the army. Ukrainian women know how to put up a good fight. They are beautiful and resilient. They are stubborn, persistent, hardworking and most importantly, very brave," added Sullivan.

Women of all ages have been coming together to combat the Russian invasion, which according to anthropology expert Alexia Bloch, is a little bit of history repeating itself on this International Women's Day.

"On March 8, 1917, women took to the streets to demand the end to food shortages and the end of (the First World War). It was a women's movement calling for the end of war in 1917, that firmly established March 8 as International Women's Day," said Bloch, professor and head of the anthropology department at UBC.

Women setting off what was the Russian revolution, which of course was an armed resistance against the Russian Empire.

"So this is what the Ukrainian women today are doing, in a way, as we talk about this on International Women's Day, they are organizing to be part of a resistance of a new Russian Empire," added Bloch.

While Women's Day traces back to feminist movements in Europe and America in the early 1900s, the day became mainstream after it was adopted by the United Nations in 1977.

This year, the UN's theme for International Women's Day is "gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow," which aims to recognize women who are working to build a more sustainable future.

Note: A previous version of this story included an image of two female Ukrainian soldiers who were wearing an offensive symbol on their uniforms, which was regrettably not recognized before being broadcast. The image has been removed from our coverage.

Correction

This story has been updated to correct the war referenced by UBC professor Alexia Bloch. It was the First World War, not the second.

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