Each and every one of us has their own story of 2022. Still, all personal stories of Ukrainian people have something in common. We all had experienced the joy that transformed into sorrow and taught us to appreciate little victories on our way to one great victory. Ours were the stories of resilience that gave way to loss of strength, only to be reborn and give us a second wind allowing us to keep fighting and supporting others.
We would like to share our story of 2022.
Accommodation for people who moved to Lviv because of the war
The beginning of the full-scale invasion led to a massive housing crisis. The situation in the west of Ukraine was particularly tough. The region became the new temporary home for the huge masses of people coming from the capital, southern and eastern regions.
Since the very first days, our activists started to help people coming to Lviv and host them in their own apartments. Still, we saw the need for systematic help with the provision of accommodation and related services, even though we had no previous experience with providing service help.
Our first project focusing on that was “FemApartment” which opened its doors in April 2022. FemApartment is a shelter for the activists that lost their houses due to war, fled to Lviv, and were willing to keep on with activism and volunteering. Of course, before the establishment of the shelter came lengthy and hard preliminary work: searching for money and a house, and organizing living conditions. The most challenging part was searching for the space, since at that moment Lviv drastically lacked available housing, and prices skyrocketed, in some cases growing twice or thrice. Still, our coordinator Katya managed to find a 3-room apartment where we could host people.
Over the six months, FemApartment hosted 7 women, 1 teenager, and a pet rat.
Unfortunately, for many people estimated several weeks of internal displacement turned into months. Lots of people lived in schools and kindergartens. By the end of spring, these temporary shelters were gradually disbanded as part of the preparations for the new school year. That’s why we decided to scale up the experience of FemApartment and create a bigger shelter for women and children.
On June 1 we opened our shelter for long-term stay for women and children, with a capacity of 20 people. It is located in the city center, occupying a two-stories building with an attic, bomb shelter, spacious kitchen, and several spacious bathrooms. In addition to accommodation and everything needed for comfortable everyday life, our residents receive other free services: food, medicine, hygiene products, psychological support from the professionals from Malteser Ukraine, as well as babysitter services. Our residents get all their needs covered thanks to our collaborations with other activists and volunteers, including “Kitchen”, NGO “Care in action”, “Lviv vegan kitchen”, and dozens of other people that are willing to help. It is crucial for us to combine providing help to other people with the implementation of our values of horizontality and solidarity. There are managers on duty and a coordinator working at the shelter, but we aspire to collegially make decisions at the regular meetings of residents and administration. We want to identify the needs together and search for ways to cover them.
The shelter is still functioning. Over that time it became a temporary home for 13 children, 38 adult women, and several pets – a cat, 2 dogs, and 2 rats.
In the new year, we have established the third shelter for families with children, able to host up to 20 people. At the moment residents are getting settled in the new place.
Experience of working with women that came to Lviv due to war formed the basis of the zine which was presented on December 17. This zine is a result of the collaboration of residents and workers of our shelter. It is a unique representation of women’s experiences regarding war. This magazine is comprised of sentimental and cute, at times complex and unpleasant, but invariably honest stories of women that, upon fleeing their homes, aspire to build a new life in Lviv.
Humanitarian support program for elderly women in Lviv
One of our first humanitarian projects implemented since the beginning of the full-scale invasion was the elderly women’s support program. This program was conceived by our coordinator Anastasiia-Lyubov at our planning meeting on February 25.
The main idea was to provide elderly women with food and to build up neighborly relations bringing together women of different generations. Volunteers looked for the elderly women in need of help on their floors, houses, and neighborhoods. In addition to supplying food packages, they got to know elderly women, talked to them, and helped with household chores and other possible duties.
In time the program gradually scaled up and transformed. In the beginning, we implemented this project together with organizations that provided humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations in Ukraine. Later, however, a need arose to raise extra funding. Then we were supported by European colleagues, as well as by ordinary Ukrainians that organized individual fundraising campaigns collecting money for food for elderly women.
Aside from the volunteers, our bike couriers Ivanks and Ruccola are also responsible for the delivery services. They help to regularly deliver food to all women engaged in our program. Still, we need funds to buy food, medications, and essential items. You can support the project by the link (monobank).
Since the start of the project together with a community of people from all over the world we supported more than 50 elderly women, visited them 180 times (including the work with individual requests), and delivered more than 140 food baskets. That is roughly 100 kg of buckwheat, rice, oatmeal, noodles, 80 liters of oil, flour, sugar, tea, sweets, cleaning products, batteries, candles, and medications.
Meaningful leisure for children that came to Lviv due to war
As we said, Lviv and other western regions of Ukraine became temporary shelters for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. The full-scale war has changed the ways to provide social services. For instance, kindergartens and schools were swiftly turned into temporary shelters, and childcare fell on mothers’ shoulders. At the same time, women found themselves in a position where they needed to handle several issues at one time: search for accommodation and deal with paperwork. That posed extra challenges and risks for women: economic dependency, reduced economic capacity, and an environment that discourages psychological rehabilitation.
Feminist activist and professional nanny with teacher education Ivanka moved to Lviv from Kharkiv at the beginning of the full-scale invasions. We instantly shared a common vision, and Ivanka began working as a nanny in collaboration with Feminist Workshop.
At first, she worked with the families directly asking us for help. As our shelter was opened Ivanka began organizing leisure activities for children living there.
Over that time Ivanka worked with more than 20 children and teens. They were 4 kids under 5 years old, 10 children of 5-10 years, and 7 teens older than 10 years old. She keeps working in our shelters. Every month Ivanka spends 60 hours making lessons, activities, and leisure for children living in the shelters.
Despite the nanny’s experience, work still posed its challenges. First and foremost, it was her first time working with the big mixed-aged children group. Competing for a nanny’s attention, misbehavior in public spaces, conflicts in the children’s collective – these are just a few of the problems nanny faced. Still, Ivanka didn’t give up, improving her skills and searching for new solutions to improve the atmosphere in the children’s collective and to organize meaningful leisure activities.
This approach bore its fruit. Ivanka succeeded in organizing leisure time interesting for both children and their mothers. We also observe that children are now better at adapting to new conditions after experiencing stress.
We collaborate with the NGO “Care in action”. Together with art therapists, urban spaces, and other initiatives we organize interesting and rewarding events, spend a lot of time outdoors and do sports. Kids enthusiastically engage in volunteering – together with Ivanka, they walk the dogs from the shelter.
Resuming the work of the teenage club “Girls can!”
Once the full-scale war started, we had to cancel weekly meetings of the teenage club “Girls can” due to security reasons. Instead, we worked with teenagers online, supported them, and shared psychological coping strategies.
Once the situation was a bit stabilized, we resumed regular open and closed meetings. Considering that some teenagers left Ukraine with their families and were not able to visit our events, coordinator Anastasiia-Lyubov kept providing individual support in the online format and worked with individual requests.
At the end of April 2022, we announced the first open event for teenagers – a collaging workshop and a lecture on Dadaism. Not only did we want to give the teenagers knowledge: we also wanted to finally meet together, to chat in the friendly setting of the teenage club. It became evident that regardless of trying time, girls wanted to visit the events, improve themselves and meet new friends. Since then we hold regular workshops, lectures, and informal meetings.
In the summer together with the activists from the grassroots group Bilkis, we organized a program for the participants of the club that lasted for several days. Activists talked to teenagers about eco-consciousness, Lviv women artists, relationships, the cult of beauty, organized body-positive fitness, and a bead-weaving workshop. We finished our summer intensive by holding an improvised fashion show.
In autumn we collaborated with VOICE Amplified. Together we held a series of teenage club meetings focusing on 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. Together with the activists Yana Pekun, Marta Chumalo, Anna Vinogradova, Yaryna Voloshyn, and Marta Zmysla, we discussed gender-based violence, defending rights, and physicality.
Last year we organized 40 club events that were visited by 165 participants in total.
Psychological support, lectures, workshops, and exchange of experience
Our organization has been always working for and together with the community. Since the very first days of the full-scale invasion, we observed enormous fortitude in the community. Activists of the Feminist Workshop engaged in all possible kinds of help: they volunteered at the railway station, sorted humanitarian aid, weaved camouflage nets, helped people fleeing the hostilities, volunteered on the border, etc. To support the community and to give them skills crucial during emergencies, we organized a first aid workshop, a digital security workshop, and took part in the intensive self-defense course for women.
Then we resumed our traditional format: “Venerating Lilith”, our consciousness-raising group focusing on body and sexuality. Amidst the news about atrocious sexualized crimes perpetrated by the Russian soldiers on the occupied territories women* had a need to share their emotions in a safe space. Such safe space is offered by the meetings of “Venerating Lilith” moderated by the activists Ksenya and Sofi.
Together with Olena Diveyeva and Nataliya Dyakiv, we started weekly meetings of a psychological support group for women. This format is valuable, since not only does it offer professional psychological support, but also provides self-help tools for emergencies.
We also resumed our feminist educational activities. Our coordinator Ksenya and event manager Yaryna organized events both in Lviv and online. We discussed women’s role in Ukrainian culture and the revival of national identity, our defenders and their needs, Ukrainian feminism, and ever-relevant issues related to the development of civil society. We invited women from different spheres to share their knowledge: their areas of expertise varied from archeology to human rights.
We also rebooted our educational English Speaking Club meetings. There you can improve your English and meet like-minded people. Meetings are moderated by the professional teacher Theo. They are regularly held online and are joined by people from all across our country.
We also launched a completely new format. We began the new 2023 year by organizing the stand-up comedy evening “A woman’s place is on stage”. We witnessed performances of both seasoned stand-up comedians and ones that had only begun to try themselves on stage. Relevant jokes, life stories, and loud applause prove – the new format is here to stay!
Over the last year, we held more than 69 events that were visited by 785 participants in total.
We also organized more specialized meetings to cater to our activists from the community. These were educational activities and experience exchanges. Two groups underwent “How to become an activist”, training by Kvitka and Ksenya. We also regularly met to exchange experiences with individual activists, representatives of governmental institutions, civil initiatives, and organizations. These meetings offered networking opportunities and strengthened solidarity. They also provided relevant first-hand information on activity in different spheres. Our coordinators and managers eagerly shared their practices related to helping people who lost their homes due to war and helping children and elderly women. Sharing the knowledge helps quickly implement it “in the field”, where prompt assistance is a must.
Useful information, posts about feminism and activism, and memes
We must have been creating content about feminism and activism since the very beginning. Despite all the problems, this year we decided to keep spreading the knowledge on gender equality and countering violence. Our social networks and website now also contain articles focusing on the history of Ukrainian culture and women’s role in it, women fighting for Ukrainian independence. We also found it important to provide our subscribers with relevant information that may come in handy during war-related emergencies.
Our media team – coordinator Anastasia, creator Ksenya, and one more Anastasia, engaged experts and volunteers that helped us to create videos, illustrations, and texts – are glad and inspired to see the feedback and interest coming from the online community.
In the past year, we created 20 videos, 65 posts, and 35 texts for the website, focusing on feminism, gender equality, and countering violence in Ukraine and over the world. We are glad that in 2022 our online community on Instagram grew by 72% (4024 subscribers), and on Youtube by 169% (2318 subscribers). In 2023 we’ll create even more interesting and useful content on Ukraine and feminist activism!
International cooperation: feminist solidarity as Ukrainian relief efforts
International feminist solidarity always belonged to our top priorities. During wartime, this sphere became even more relevant. On one hand, the whole world is focused on Ukraine, and Europeans look for opportunities to help Ukrainians. On the other hand, this war lead to numerous misunderstandings and obstacles to dialogue and collaboration: Ukrainians were encountered with questions and complaints regarding militarization and nationalism.
After fleeing abroad, millions of women became Ukrainian ambassadors advocating for our common interests and fighting for Ukraine. Head of the Feminist Workshop Yosh went to Europe to search for financial support for our large-scale activities, as our budget was almost empty. She also aspired to establish a dialogue and to build solidarity by starting anew. Sasha Kantser also contributed to this work. It’s impossible to list all our discussions, meetings, presentations, and interviews. Together with French, Italian, German, and Spanish colleagues, we organized presentations on Ukraine and the feminist movement, advocating for both countering Russian aggression and fighting against Russian imperialism and colonialism.
One of our permanent partners in that endeavor is European Network for Solidarity with Ukraine. Together with them we created and published the Ukrainian feminists’ manifesto “The right to resist”. Later we came up with “Statement by Ukrainian Feminists in Solidarity with Iranian Women”.
In collaboration with our Polish, German, and Latvian partners we began an experience exchange project for feminist activists that will last a year. We plan to hold four two-day workshops in each country focusing on leadership, working with the community, care practices, and searching for resources. The war made us adjust the program, and workshops presented an opportunity to speak up about coming together to counter Russian aggression. The Ukrainian group is coordinated by Valeriya Zubatenko.
We create a zoom-podcast “Feminists against the war”. Each video directed by Myro Klochko has English subtitles translated by Kira Leonova and a text version of the talk transcripted by Ana More, coordinator of the project. This content is targeted at foreign audiences and helps them to make Ukraine closer and easier to understand. Women poets, journalists, civil society activists, artists, stand-up comedians, and playwrights talk about changes in their lives inflicted by war regardless of where they met it. Women discuss their activism in wartime and share their opinions on upcoming changes.
Yosh also contributed to the advocacy campaign regarding efficient funding of humanitarian aid efforts in Ukraine. Meetings, discussions with donors, and creation of the working groups focusing on the best ways to allocate streams of financial help to the support of civil society. To improve collaboration between Ukrainian activists and international donors we held several meetings together with Ruby Johnson and Purposeful fund. These meetings were moderated by Mariya Tymoschuk. Together with Agnieszka Bulacik, we created the space for dialogue between the organization of American elderly women and Ukrainian activists. Kira Leonova, Tetyana Dytyna, and Svitlana Bregman provided the interpretation.
We developed the conditions for providing grants, came up with the approaches to identify priorities, proved how certain ways of collaboration can deepen colonial and paternalistic patterns, and on the contrary – how they can support the development of civil society on a grassroots basis. Closed expert discussions at the International Human Rights Defenders Conference in Mexico (December 2022) were an important contribution to that. Yosh also gave a speech focusing on the experience of the Ukrainian feminist movement during the war, along with activists from Uganda, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan. Loud applause from civil society activists from all across the world was a symbol of international solidarity and support for our efforts.
To keep advocating for Ukrainian voices all across the world we recently created the English-speaking Twitter channel FeministsUA. We plan to focus on the activities of feminist initiatives and activists, as well as discuss political issues. Join the international discussion!
Thanks for staying with us, supporting our activities, participating in our projects, visiting our events, reading our articles, and watching the videos. We keep working to help people, support the community, spread knowledge and bring victory closer. Glory to Ukraine!
If you want to support us, follow the link.