The war induces fear and anxiety. It brings even more fear and uncertainty to the lives of women older than 45 who don’t know how to use their phones.

As our state is rapidly digitalizing, a large part of our lives, be it banking, receiving humanitarian aid, navigating the city, making a doctor’s appointment, or getting a prescription, elderly people are getting confused when they don’t understand something that is presumably “easy” and “obvious”.

Forgotten in time and invisible to society –  that’s how you might describe many women who can’t keep pace with the rapidly developing digital state. Elderly women are a particularly vulnerable category in need of extra protection and care. In their past lives, they could lead the companies, and now they can’t pay for utilities online. It is not their fault, it is just that there are no conditions and especially no opportunities created for them.

For that exact reason, the NGO “Feminist Workshop” has spent the last 4 months creating and curating digital literacy courses for elderly women. 

This is a project for people and about people. Today we will share the story of one of the course participants. Her name is Albina, and she is learning to use the phone at the age of 84.

  • Tell us about your life. What was your job?
    • What was my job? It is easier to tell what wasn’t! I was a handyman at a building site, for 6 years I worked with a circular grinding machine, then I became an economist at the machine-building plant. Then I became a commodity expert in Germany. Yeah, I studied here, at this one university…
  • In Lviv?
  • I studied in Lviv for three years, and then in Donetsk for two years. But my work was (sighs)… Oh, when I was a student I worked as a grinder. That was a real toil! Extremely hazardous working conditions… And at the same time, I studied at the University of Trade by distance. Yeah, and then I transferred to Lviv (sighs). It turned out they’d established a university there, and I didn’t even know. Then I worked as an economist again… chief economist in the city electric transport association. Yeah… We had one association for the whole region. 

The air raid sirens wail, and we move to the bomb shelter to continue our conversation. The children run around, and the digital literacy lesson is in full swing. It is noisy and cold, but surprisingly comfortable. 

    • Then I worked in the same association but in the educational department. We had been training tram and trolleybus drivers. That’s it about my work. And in 1998 I retired… Yeah (sighs)… 
  • But that’s really brave, to work so much and at so many different positions.
  • Girls, all my job positions required a great deal of responsibility… A great deal, yeah… I’m not, how to put it… I’m not afraid of my own shadow! Nah, I worked, and it all went well (smiles). At the age of 58, I retired… My young years were all hustle and bustle. That’s why there wasn’t a lot of fun in my life. I simply didn’t have time to spend on fun things. My generation needed to think about how to live, what to do… We spent a lot of time in the rented apartments. But there are no fun things I can share with you… But don’t feel bad! You know, I was always optimistic. This too shall pass, and a more interesting life is to come… I always stayed late at work, for one or two hours. And the family is waiting at home! You need to take care of your family. Yeah… 
  • Tell us about your life now.
    • I came here in 2015. A shell hit my apartment. On the fifth floor. And it was hard to get a pension. So we moved here, in May of 2015. Again, all these troubles! With searching for the apartment, that is. Actually, I really wanted to get back home. I buried my husband… Buried my son here as well… Yeah… This sadness… Not even sadness, but an illness… It hurts all the time, it can’t stop… For our whole life, we worked like mad, and… for what? I have nothing. Nothing left. 
  • I feel for you. And how do you find Lviv? 
    • Well, I still want to go home. To go home, how to say it. I have friends here who welcome me warmly. I came here to my cousin, and three years ago she died from COVID… So I was left alone. Just like that (sighs). I wouldn’t say that… I survived everywhere, literally everywhere! In Donetsk I was on good terms with everybody, when I worked in Germany they welcomed me warmly. Here as well. No one picks on me! Except at the farmer’s market because I speak Russian, but I am already used to it. I am forgetting Russian words, let alone Ukrainian… Anichka, what else do you want me to tell you?
  • How did you learn about these digital literacy courses?
    • I have a friend from Donetsk… it was her who brought me here. She keeps me up to date. She told me about these courses as well. I am eager to learn! Although, you know, my mental capacity can’t keep up with my ambitions. 
  • Now, don’t say such things! All the lecturers are praising you. They say that you are doing good. 
    • I don’t know, my memory is getting weaker. I underwent seven operations and was anesthetized seven times. With oncology on top… I really like it here, with all the knowledge I am getting. The girls are responsible and commendable. Regardless of my, how to put it, cognitive problems, memory problems… 
  • You know that many people are afraid to start learning something new later in life… 
    • No-no! What fear? I didn’t even think about it! Plus, girls told us that they would teach us everything. They were really patient with me, so you know… They will patiently explain everything I don’t get, everything I forgot. I am really glad about it!
  • How do you use the phone now?
    • I am more at ease, yeah. I live with people like me (laughs). I can’t even ask anyone! It doesn’t matter, I am searching for the solutions! I think that I needed to find these courses even earlier so that I… When I can’t do something, when my smartphone gets frozen, I am going crazy (laughs). Yeah, I am totally in despair! But I don’t feel this way anymore. These courses are really important.
  • There are dozens of women afraid to enroll in the classes. What advice do you have for them?
  • Don’t be afraid and enroll in the course! Explore the new horizons! You really should do it. I already told you, I didn’t even think about it. Studying is a great thing (laughs)!

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