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Women in the Armed Forces: Anastasiia joined the unit press service to help with what she does best – photography

Women have been joining the ranks of the Ukrainian army and volunteer battalions since the first days of Russia’s war against Ukraine in 2014. As of November 2022, about 5,000 women are at the frontline, and almost 60 thousand serve and work in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Anastasiia Verbova is a representative of the press service of the “Da Vinci Wolves” special unit. “I knew that I would join the Armed Forces, but I thought it would happen sooner,” the woman says. Here is her story.

Photo: press service of the “Da Vinci Wolves” special unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

It was in the summer. Anastasiia Verbova often left the city to visit her grandfather in the village. He was one of those who had the greatest influence on her upbringing. Grandpa told Anastasiia Ukrainian myths and legends and instilled love for Ukraine. Verbova’s family survived the Holodomor, so the girl grew up with stories of hatred for communism.

“When I was 12-14 years old, my mother sent me to the “Cossack Fortress” children’s national-patriotic camp, where I met a bunch of people whose views coincided with mine. From that time, I started to stick to my own,” says Verbova.

When the Euromaidan began, the girl was studying in the first year of the pedagogical faculty of the Borys Hrinchenko Kyiv University. She skipped classes to go to the protests with her mother. Groupmates and teachers knew about it, therefore, they covered it up and supported her.

With the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, many of Anastasiia’s friends went to the front as volunteers. In the first months, she collected funds and provided the military with the necessary supplies. Since the war touched her life, she perceived the new reality as a bizarre routine. The war was with her, in her lifestyle and way of thinking.

Before the Revolution of Dignity and the war, Anastasiia dreamed of an artistic or musical career, but she decided that she wanted to change the education system in Ukraine. After getting a teacher’s degree, she changed her mind. She started working in the field of public relations and media.

“I changed many fields and decided that untill the age of 23, I could allow myself to try everything I was interested in. During this whole period, I was doing photography. Six months before the pandemic, I told myself I wanted to pursue it as a career,” says Anastasiia Verbova. She filmed trials, protests, and rallies. But she loved portrait photoshoots the most.

Two years before the full-scale war, she started cooperating with “Veterano Coffee Kyiv” — a chain of coffee shops founded in 2016 by ATO/JFO veteran Volodymyr Shevchenko. “My life had a background of war,” the girl recalls.

End of February 2022. Anastasiia Verbova remains in Kyiv. On February 24, her mother and friends’ calls woke her up.

“Mom says, “It’s started,” and with the sounds of the first explosions in the background. At that moment, we already had our emergency backpacks ready. We were sitting in the hallway and panicking.

We were not planning to leave. At that time, I had Covid-19 and thought that in a day or two I would be more useful in Kyiv. So a week and a half passed. There were already fewer missile strikes in Kyiv. Many of my acquaintances were involved in volunteering, and I helped them in different locations — I collected supplies for friends who were fighting in the forests near Kyiv. But still, the best thing I can do is take photos,” says Verbova.

Photo: press service of the “Da Vinci Wolves” special unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

June 2022. Alina, head of the ULF medical service of the “Da Vinci Wolves” special unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, asks: “Nastia, would you like to come to us to film Da Vinci Wolves?” 

“It was nerve-racking for me because I didn’t expect to be invited. This was a turning point. I was happy I could finally be useful,” says Anastasiia Verbova.

The Donetsk region, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut. The photographer came to the position of the “Wolves” for just a couple of days but stayed for two weeks.

“I filmed the content for them and myself. I was interested in developing further in the direction of military photography. Now I remember how I was thinking that it would be cool to work in this unit. At the end of those two weeks, Alina offered to stay with them and enlist. Without thinking too long, I agreed,” the girl says.

Anastasiia Verbova is now a representative of the press service of the “Da Vinci Wolves” special unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“When I go on combat trips, I go with our ULF medical service. I also work with military personnel. My job is taking photos and videos, communicating with journalists, escorting and supporting their work, as well as proofreading and reviewing materials, planning text and visual content for the unit’s social networks.”

“I knew that I would make the choice to join the Armed Forces, but I thought it would happen sooner. I have never spoken about it out loud, but I want to make maximum efforts to bring our victory closer,” shares Anastasiia Verbova.