When Andrii Kolesnyk’s sister was sent to the Ukrainian front lines on February 24th, the day of Russia’s invasion, the uniform and underwear she received were designed for men.
There are currently 56,000 women employed in Ukraine’s armed forces, according to Deputy Defense Minister Anna Maliar, but the clothing and supplies they have been given are designed for men’s body types. Kolesnyk and his partner, Kseniia Drahanyuk, decided to fix this.
They started an independent NGO called Zemlyachki, or “Compatriots,” which produces women’s fatigues under its own brand in a factory in Kharkiv, as reported by CNN.
It also supplies servicewomen with key products such as smaller boots, helmets, lighter plates for bulletproof vests and even hygiene products. Many of these products come from companies in Sweden, Macedonia and Turkey.
The nonprofit relies on private donations, charity funds and crowdfunding. So far, it has distributed equipment worth $1 million and helped at least 3,000 women, Kolesnyk told CNN.
Although Zemlyachki is independent of the military, it is not meant to compete with the military. “We are doing this to help our government,” Kolesnyk said.
Its hub in Kyiv is reported to be overflowing with cardboard boxes full of supplies for servicewomen. It was recently able to commission a uniform for pregnant women, after a pregnant sniper got in touch with the NGO.
However, Kolesnyk and Drahanyuk are concerned about the impending winter. The couple, both TV journalists before the war started, said they are struggling to procure survival supplies like sleeping bags and thermal clothing.
While a physical disability prevents Kolesnyk from joining his sister and other family members on the front lines, he hopes that his nonprofit will be helpful for those who are on the front lines.
“I’m trying to do my best here to help not only my family, but the whole army,” he told CNN.