As reports of Russian soldiers raping Ukrainian women rolled in from the suburbs of Bucha in early April, women in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk prepared for the worst, according to The Guardian.
“Women need to be ready,” Ruslan Martsinkiv, the city’s mayor, said. “It’s the task of the present day, the task of war.”
Martsinkiv announced in late March that five schools in the city would be repurposed to host shooting classes for civilians, aimed at equipping women to defend themselves and their families.
“It would be better if I don’t ever need to, but at least I will know how to use it,” Galina, a saleswoman attending one of the classes, told The Guardian. “What else can we do? It’s just the state of life now.”
Demand is so high that there is a current waitlist of more than 6,000 women who want lessons in how to handle and shoot a rifle.
As women in that Ukrainian city stay put and prepare for the possibility of attack, millions more have fled to neighboring countries — only to face other dangers such as human trafficking.
In Poland, women are banding together to offer safe passage for Ukrainian women and their children, NPR reported last week.
Elzbieta Jarmulska, who lives just outside Warsaw, recruited other women with a callout on Facebook to drive refugees around the country who were hesitant to get into a car with an unfamiliar man. The drivers of Women Take the Wheel now regularly travel to the border, scouring the crowds for women and children needing safe passage to Poland’s capital.
“It’s about the anticipation of danger,” she told NPR. “You think, ‘What will happen? What is next? A second ago, they bombarded my town. They killed people. And now I’m supposed to get into a car with a strange man?’ “
Jarmulska is expanding the initiative to help arm women with protective helmets and vests, in addition to providing them with tampons and other necessities. Women Take the Wheel is also trying to purchase a bus that will be able to ferry even more Ukrainian women across Poland.
“As long as Ukrainian women need us,” Jarmulska said, “we’ll be driving.”