With no near end in sight for the Russo-Ukrainian war, tens of thousands of women have courageously joined the Ukrainian forces and taken their strength to the battlefield. These women have been tirelessly defending their country while wearing uniforms many sizes too large, resulting in health concerns.
At the beginning of July, a count reported nearly 60,000 women serving in Ukraine’s military. A majority of these women have cited various health concerns surrounding the lack of resources for women in the military, adding additional trouble to the already dangerous war grounds. Many have developed yeast infections and other conditions due to not being able to fittingly relieve themselves.
“Try to go to the toilet in the woods at 4 degrees Fahrenheit,” a 24-year-old soldier identified by her first name, Julia, told news source The Beast. “All of us got cystitis or inflammation of the ovaries and back pain. After a year of the war, we have a bouquet of all sorts of health issues.”
Julia and her older sister Alina left their tech jobs and joined the military to protect their country a year ago. They reported to the outlet that the lack of proper menstrual products and urination safety are “the least of the problems we have,” noting that the uniforms are also entirely unsuitable for most of them. Many are forced to wear body armor and uniforms that are several sizes too large, and fighting in “huge” men’s sized shoes is a dangerous and unnecessary burden on their mobility.
“The hardest is to run in the army’s standard, 30-pound-bulletproof vest – which just never fits snugly to the body with boobs like mine,” Alina said. “If I take the army armor off and get wounded or get killed, there would be no compensation paid to me or my family. Our lives, our security, often depend on what we wear on our body and our feet, how healthy we are.”
Over 100 female soldiers have died either in battle, during evacuations, or on press assignments since the war began in February 2023. Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov assured the women that new uniforms, body armor, and helmets are currently being tested and that the defense ministry intends on ordering and distributing these soon.
A charity called Zemliachky has been reportedly helping to address the scarcity issues. They recently released a collection of military uniforms that are far lighter in weight and designed specifically for women, but Zemliachky’s founder, Andriy Kolesnyk, says that the group’s funding only covers uniforms for 10% of the nation’s female soldiers.
“Our country is constantly under attack, so even pregnant women fight against Russian invaders until they are seven months pregnant,” Kolesnyk told The Beast. “I currently have requests for specially designed uniforms and other important items from at least 10 pregnant soldiers. We have shortages for every single item.”
These women have volunteered themselves to fight this war and are facing danger daily for their country. Their attire and health should be the last of their worries. Hopefully Zemliachky’s efforts to help will inspire other able charities and organizations to provide for these brave but undersupplied soldiers.
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