Ukrainian servicewoman shares story of battle, loss, and resilience

25 July, 07:02 PM
Women at war - Yarina Chornohuz (Photo:personal archive)

Women at war - Yarina Chornohuz (Photo:personal archive)

NV, together with the Women's Veteran Movement, tells the stories of Ukrainian women who are defending the country in the war against Russia, side by side with men, and proving by their own example that there is nothing that they cannot do. Stories of the heroines who left their office jobs, successful careers, scientific endeavors, and their own businesses, for a uniform in military service for Ukraine.

Yarina Chornohuz
Marine, writer, social activist, mother of a 6-year-old daughter

Yarina Chornohuz is one of the most recognizable women on the frontline. She was an activist who joined the Ukrainian volunteer paramedic organization Hospitallers as a paramedic in 2019, and then signed up with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

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In fact, I've wanted to sign up since 2014, as soon as everything started (the Russian invasion of Ukraine). I saw this as a logical next step of my struggle as a social activist, but didn’t dare to sign up, because my daughter had just been born. She was young and she needed me.

I loved studying a lot. I graduated from the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, where I studied Literature and Philosophy at the Department of Humanities. Before my life at the frontline I used to combine studies, seminars, and my work as a translator. I translated teenagers’ and children's books from English into Ukrainian for publishing houses. I also taught business English for lawyers and managers, but I constantly followed the news from the front. I was drawn to it.

In 2019, I decided to sign up for training with the Hospitallers. This training helped me under-stand that I wanted to go to the front. For some time, I combined rotations [with the Hospitallers]with translation work, and at the same time I was fighting for the Law on the State Language (making Ukrainian the official language of the country). I was in a group of activists that developed this law, and it was eventually adopted in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament).

In January 2020, my boyfriend died. We were close. We used to be together at the front and had many plans for our future. I realized that in order to survive this loss, I needed to go through his path. His death pushed me to do what I had long wanted. I understood that right now there is more truth in the trenches, at the front, in the war. To better understand my life, my country and myself - I left.

Yarina Chornohuz (Фото: personal archive)
Yarina Chornohuz / Фото: personal archive

I was looking for a military unit that I could join by signing a contract. I wanted to join the marines, because my first rotation as a part of the Hospitallers was with them, only it was the 36th brigade. Not all men manage to get here, but I did. I really love the south, the sea. All these cities - Mariupol, Kherson Oblast... Therefore, I wanted to serve there.

The 503rd battalion. I've heard about them for a long time. Through a friend, I was invited there for an interview. It was conducted by lieutenant colonel Sukharevsky of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They have a complicated procedure.

For men, these are physical fitness tests. For women it’s basically the same - you must pass a physical test and a personal interview. Your candidacy must be approved personally by the commander of the Marine Corps. As it was explained to me, there were cases when women joined and didn’t fulfill their duties, after which the position disappeared. I passed the Young Fighter Course and fitness level check. Now I'm in the Marine Reconnaissance Battalion, it’s my second year here.

I never raised my daughter as a woman that should be at home, be only a mother or something like that. I raised her as an impartial person who must understand what she wants and respect the choice of others. I explained that there was a war going on in the country. The fact that Russia attacked us. The fact that someone has to help the wounded at the front lines, someone has to defend this territory. Orysia, my daughter, understood this.

I was lucky with my daughter, she never threw any tantrums. Although she is little, she sympathizes with what I do. From time to time she asks when the contract expires, when we will be together. But in general, she understands the importance of all this. Right now she lives with my first husband.

Yarina Chornohuz (Фото: personal archive)
Yarina Chornohuz / Фото: personal archive

It is a big problem in Ukraine, that after 8 years there are still people who completely don’t understand the part of their society that is fighting for peace and everyone’s well-being. This is the reason why we have lost the South (Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts) in 2022. So far we haven’t got it back. One of the immediate reasons is the indifference of people who have existed for all these 8 years without respect for the military, the army, and our front-line experience. And now we are paying for it.

I understand that in order for people not to forget about the war, they need the living voice of a person who consciously chose this path, because in the modern media space of the 21st century, everything gets forgotten very quickly. Yesterday you may have heard some terrible news that at another time would have shocked people for years. Now, due to the constant flow of in-formation, it disappears and is forgotten. It is necessary that people don’t forget.

Ukrainians must accept that war is with us forever. We are forever at war if we need this country, otherwise it will cease to exist.

It was the most painful when it was impossible to evacuate the dead from the battlefield due to an offensive by unequal forces. This struck me very hard. We have always been taught that it is imperative to evacuate the dead, but the war shows that there are situations when this is impossible. I feel pain for the brothers, whose parents didn’t even receive a body that they can bury. This was the hardest thing for me.

Putin is the avatar of the entire Russian society. He is the person who embodied the hatred for Ukraine and raised it to the highest possible state level. It is his fault that he fueled this Russian fascism with a long-term propaganda policy. He is responsible for maintaining the poor level of education in Russia, in order for all these propagandistic lies enter the minds of uneducated people. But the Russians themselves are also to blame for allowing these seeds of enemy propaganda and fascism to germinate in their heads. All adults are responsible for their own stupid-ity, and this kind of violent joy that they demonstrate when it comes to atrocities that the Russian army is doing in Ukraine.

Putin gives orders, and they are carried out by people who aren’t Putin.

In the fascist society that has now blossomed there, Putin can be replaced by one of his deputies and they might demonstrate nostalgia for his goals... and thereafter they will continue his work.

Total victory is possible only when our society changes under the influence of events. Ukraine will make it until the end of this century only if we get rid of corruption, our shortcomings, build a judicial system, a defense system, and people stop rocking the state from the inside. Perhaps then we will have our own "iron dome" and we will be as powerful in terms of defense as Israel. Then it's a win. If we simply stop their advance on our lands for a few years, it might be some kind of tactical gain, but it’s not a victory. We are very far from victory. In order to win, society must change.

What do I consider a win? The return of our borders before the Russian invasion of 2014. The return of Donetsk, Luhansk, Crimea. Not to mention the now occupied Kherson Oblast, Severodonetsk, and other territories. The country must become much stronger than it is now in order to return all of this. If we fail to return these lands, then a total societal change would be considered a victory. We must get rid of our legacy of corruption. It would be a different victory and a different level of national consciousness. We cannot afford to keep doing things the same way.

And we were doing them the same way all these 8 years since 2014. It cannot continue. 2022 showed us that if we don’t change, then we will be losing two oblasts every 8-10 years. People must understand this. Otherwise, our children will also go to war.

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