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Invisible Battalion documentary aims at making Ukrainian servicewomen visible to the society – project authors

Kyiv, September 27, 2017.

Ukraine’s first full-length documentary puts in the spotlight the stories of female combatants fighting in the country’s east as well as emphasizes the problems Ukrainian servicewomen face in the army.

The first Ukrainian full-length documentary film about the Ukrainian women participating in the war with Russia – “Invisible Battalion”, will be premiered at one of the national TV channels in October. The film comprises six stories of women who went through the war as combatants or paramedics. “The film as well as the entire project, firstly, aims at making our women visible; secondly, is to ensure that the defense and security sector is formed based on professional qualities; and, thirdly, is to demonstrate to the world that the war is still on, that it is not a civil war but Russian aggression and that our women are dying in this war same as men do,” said Maria Berlinska, project author and director, head of the “Institute of gender programs”, head of the volunteer-run Ukrainian Centre for Aerial Reconnaissance at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

“We do have problems with information policy and its implementation, in particular, at the Defense Ministry and in the Armed Forces. Hopefully, we have started talking to the society and the international community about what is actually going on in Ukraine. This project, this film is real-life stories of the women who gave up everything and went to the frontline, who find it hard to return back home, who are losing their loved ones. These are the people whom everyone should know about,” emphasized Oksana Havryliuk, head of the NGO “Information and Coordination Center”, Reserve Colonel.

Current Ukrainian legislation does not foresee that women may serve on the same positions and in the similar conditions as men, and thus, no social guarantees are foreseen for them. However, there are many women in the Ukrainian. According to Oksana Havryliuk, women make up to 10 percent of the personnel in some units. Several laws need to be amended to ensure that women and men have equal opportunities when on the military service. Thus, equal access to the military education needs to be secured, said Iryna Suslova, MP of the Petro Poroshenko faction, co-author of the draft law no.6109 that is to introduce equal opportunities for military service for men and women. “Actual documents create the conditions when women cannot start serving with the Ukrainian Armed Forces as they cannot get the respective professional education, neither at the secondary school nor at the higher education level,” the MP explained. The draft law no.6109 drafted by civil society activists, has been unanimously supported by the parliamentary Committee on security and defense and by the Committee on human rights protection, national minorities and interethnic relations. “When enacted this draft law will open the way to success in the Ukrainian Armed Forces for thousands of women whom we see at the frontline today but whom we cannot provide with social guarantees due to the limitations imposed by the state,” Suslova added.

“Those who were at war need to be integrated to the maximum into the process of the legislation amendment because they know from the inside all the problems. They walked all the way – [and know] everything that a woman serving in the army comes across with, psychological rehabilitation and social adaptation, everything that needs to be changed at the national level, not only in the Armed Forces,” added Oksana Havryliuk.

Oksana Yakubova, a film character, combat veteran, at the moment a chief economist at the Finance Ministry of Ukraine, emphasized the need to develop the system for psychological and social adaptation of combat veterans returning from the frontline, the system that would be adequate to the actual demands. She herself was in such a psychological state when she was talking to the film crew, that she does not remember it at all. The film crew and the psychologists turned to be nearly the first people to whom she could speak about the war and who were ready to listen to her. “When you come back from the army, no one cares. Before the start of the ‘Invisible Battalion’ project, I did not realize myself what was going on with me. Only after the film was shot, only now talking to the guys who left the service, I realize that it is a very big problem that will reach its peak in three-four years when those who have been serving for the three years of war, will be leaving the service. We do not know how long this war will keep going further. A group needs to be established that will be meeting these people. Crisis psychologists need to be part of this group, who will immediately identify the persons with the posttraumatic stress disorder and will immediately send them to a rehabilitation program. Returning veterans would never complain that they feel bad,” emphasized Oksana Yakubova.

She also emphasized that it is important to grant longer leaves to the military, at least 15-day long ones quarterly, while paid stay at the health resorts ideally should be provided not only to the combat veteran but also to their families. Servicemen and women also need to be granted an opportunity to sign year-long contracts, not only the ones for six months or three years.

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