By Lourdes Velasco
Kyiv, May 15 (EFE).- Tania Bondarenko, a 40-year-old woman, has just become a soldier. She always wanted to be one, but it was the Russian invasion that led her to take the step and leave her career as an actress behind.
She cannot make sense of the Ukrainian law that obliges men to go to war while women have the option to leave the country.
“It should be the same for men and women,” she remarked.
Tania believes that if a man or woman does not want to fight, they should not be forced to do so, but asked to serve their country in some other way.
“There are men who may not be able to kill another person. If a man wants to go to war, let him go, if he feels he cannot go, let him do something else, there are many ways to help the country. The volunteers do a wonderful job,” said the soldier.
She defines herself as a feminist and claims to have suffered from the chauvinist behavior more as an actress than now in the Territorial Defense Forces, a reserve force of the Ukraine Armed Forces, although at first she felt like she was seen as “an elephant walking around a city.”
“What bothered me most is that every time a new soldier saw me they would ask, ‘why have you come to the Armed Forces?’ And I would answer, ‘Seriously? I came because I want to fight. Do you ask your male soldiers what they are doing in the Armed Forces?'” Tania said with indignation.
“There can be no other reason to come to the Armed Forces than to fight and protect my country,” reaffirmed Tania, who understands being asked when she joined, but not why she did so.
“For men, women in the Armed Forces are something exotic. I think it is because it takes an effort for them to treat us as equals. First they have to think, ‘well, she’s with me, she’s fighting with me, she’s my companion,’ and then accept, ‘she’s the same as me.”
She also does not consider that women in Ukraine regard joining the Armed Forces as a probable option, as most people over the age of 40 still see the world as a place where there are male and female jobs.
“Honestly, I am upset to see messages from my friends on Facebook in which they thank the men of Ukraine for fighting for the country. I say, ‘Excuse me, I am here, I am a woman and I am not alone,'” Tania said.
He stressed that in the modern armed forces, there is nothing women in the military cannot do, although, because of her small frame, there are certain weapons she cannot use.
“But is it not a question of being a man or a woman (…) because a man of my size could not use a huge weapon either,” but a hefty woman could.
She expressed satisfaction with her colleagues and said that once the initial moments had passed they have respected her and treated her as one of them, but for minor incidents of chauvinism.
For example, on one of the first nights she spent in the base camp around the end of February, when it was a very cold, she went to relieve a colleague at the end of his shift, but he insisted on staying on so that she would not be cold.
Tania is happy with her new job at a training camp around Kyiv. She grew up with a military father and that’s why she always dreamed of being like him, or join the police.
“When I was little, I used to dream of war because if there is no war, how can a soldier be a hero? Then I realized that being a mother, or being a teacher, or being an actress like I was before can also be akin to being a hero.”
She signed up for the Territorial Defense Forces on the first day of the invasion, after being woken up at five in the morning by a bombardment. Soon, she gathered her papers and rushed to the office.
“By 10 in the morning, I had already submitted the papers. I had so, so much luck that day! If I had gone at 12 noon I would not have gotten in. There were a kilometer-long queue of people outside. They wouldn’t have selected me because I was an actress, I had no experience whatsoever and they already had people,” she explained.