Ukrainian women who escaped their country now go back to help fight the invasion
By Ed Lavandera and Cristiana Moisescu, CNN
There is a sole train line that runs between Ukraine and the station in the border town of Przemysl, Poland. The trains that go back and forth are a faded blue and yellow, the national colors of the besieged country.
The scene on Platform Five looked different this week. Thousands of refugees were still coming off the trains from Ukraine, mostly women and children looking for safety as Russian forces step up their attacks.
But the people waiting for the journey back across the border were no longer almost entirely male. This line was perhaps half full of women queuing to get back to the war zone.
Mariia Halligan told CNN she’s going to her home city of Kyiv to be with her family and Canadian husband to fight, in her words, “Russian terrorists.”
“If I have to do this, I will do it for my country, for my relatives, for my friends,” she said, adding there was no room for her to be nervous.
“I’m not (a) man, I can’t kill. I’m (a) woman and my work (is to) keep balance and help, and be kind, and care about relatives, family, friends and all Ukraine. But now I feel all Ukrainians (are) my relatives. And I hope that world society will help Ukrainians, all Ukrainians, because it’s my family.”
She clutched a paper heart, made for her in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag by Polish children, who hoped it would be a good luck talisman.
Every woman in the line on this cool, cloudy day had their own reasons for returning to their country at war. But one theme seemed to connect almost every woman waiting to board the train. They view returning home to a war zone as an act of symbolic resistance to Russian aggressors.
Their faces looked determined, and the line was quieter than the emotional rush of people fleeing into Poland.
Near the front was Tatiyana Veremychenko. The 40-year-old came to Poland three days prior to get her two adult daughters to safety. Now she said she is returning to eastern Ukraine, close to the border with Russia.
Veremychenko said she felt a void being away from Ukraine. Sitting in Poland seemed too peaceful and serene. She wanted to return to be with her husband, who may soon be asked to join the army.
“It’s my homeland. And I think that I can probably be more helpful if I go there than if I stay here,” she said. “Ukraine is equally important for the men and for the women … We have the strength, the will, and the heart. And women have them as well.”
Irina Odel said she brought her grandchildren to Poland but felt a pull to get back to the rest of her family in the southern port city of Odessa.
“I’m anxious, but the feeling has become dull over time. I just want to be next to my family.”
Toward the back of line stood Nelya, clutching a little white dog, her daughter, Yulia and granddaughter Sophia.
Nelya knows her daughter would rather have everyone safe and together. But with her own father refusing to leave Ukraine as it is his home, she feels called back to him.
“I can’t abandon him,” she said simply.
And that’s what ties the women heading for Platform Five together — whether they’re going to help their family or their country, they have chosen not to abandon them.
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