In the words of Yuliia Kirillova: At war, there is no place for stereotypes.
Yuliia Kirillova is a woman veteran who, after returning from the war, was able to successfully adapt to the new reality, find herself and support the others. At the age of 28, she became a teacher in the university and fights for women's rights in the army and beyond.
“The war for me started in 2014, when I was 20 years old. I became a volunteer paramedic and travelled to all hot spots in eastern Ukraine. I was wounded and had to retire. But the worse than injury was the fact that my husband, a military serviceman, died during the artillery shelling,” shares Yuliia.
“Active work and volunteering helped me find the strength to go on. At the same time, I was studying to become a lawyer. I was recovering from a trauma and trying to start a new life. But when I said at a job interview that I was in the army, it would always cause a surprise in the room, because many people believed that a woman doesn’t belong in the army. The work for the “Women's Veterans Movement” (WVM), which I co-founded, really saved me.
People often say about the women in service: “She joined the army to find a husband.” But today, women are getting much more visibility and respect, also thanks to the Women's Veterans Movement. We constantly worked on advocating for these changes: formal introduction of combat positions for women, the name of the national holiday – the Day of Women and Men Defenders of Ukraine, etc. Society must understand that we have the right to do this and that at war, there is no place for stereotypes,” says Yulia.
“At the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine, I was involved in the evacuation of the wounded, taught first aid skills. Now, I teach mediation at a university. I love my work but my key priority today is social and psychological rehabilitation of women and men veterans as well as women’s leadership. Together with the colleagues from WVM, we recently completed the development of the program of the Unified Standard of Rehabilitation for Veterans. We are also engaged in business development projects, so that women returning from the front could learn how to start their own business. I urge women veterans to join the “Women's Veterans Movement” because sisterhood is very important today. You might not find your best friends here, but we respect each other, and united by the same goal, we can do so much more.”
Together with the UN Women Ukraine, the "Women's Veteran Movement" implements the “From the strong to the strong” project, where women veterans help civilians overcome anxiety and fear, learn the necessary survival skills in conditions of active combat and support psychological health. The activity is implemented within the UN Women project "Transformative Approaches to Achieving Gender Equality in Ukraine" with the support of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine and funded by the Government of Sweden.