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Women in the Armed Forces: Anastasiia lost her fiance in the war and became a battalion press officer

Almost 60,000 women serve and work in the Armed Forces of Ukraine as of November 2022. They have been joining the Ukrainian army from 2014, when the Russia’s war against Ukraine started. But even more so after the full-scale invasion.

Anastasiia Blyshchyk is one of them. In December 2022, the Italian newspaper Il Foglio named Anastasiia the Person of the year. The woman serves as a press officer in the Izium territorial defense battalion. Here is her story.

Photo from Anastasiia’s personal archive.

Anastasiia Blyshchyk worked as a journalist, and it was at work where she met the love of her life — a Ukrainian soldier, and with the beginning of a full-scale war, also a serviceman of the 95th Air Assault Brigade, Oleksandr Makhov. He died on May 4 near Izium, in the small village of Dovhenke — a fragment entered his lung.

He was 36 years old. A month before his death, he proposed to Anastasiia on a video from the front line.

Photo from Anastasiia’s personal archive.

Anastasiia Blyshchyk was born in the Kherson region, 40 kilometers from the border with Crimea. She didn’t have a computer or expensive toys in her childhood. There were times when, instead of sweets, she would dip her finger in sugar and lick it. But the girl was growing up in love and care. She went to a music school, dancing classes, played table tennis and volleyball, and served in the church. And every time she imagined that one day she would escape to the capital and live there.

In 2014, she was 15 years old. She remembers how Russia occupied Crimea. Then many soldiers appeared in the Kherson region. She began to distinguish an armored personnel carrier from a tank.

“We were all hooked on the news. Back then, I had yet no idea that I would work on television, and later volunteer to go to war,” Blyshchyk recalls.

Anastasiia and Oleksandr were together since 2020. Not a day would pass without them talking about the war. He told her about the living conditions of the soldiers: wet napkins that could be used instead of a shower, mice in the dugouts, and the bread that becomes stale before it is delivered. “I was having goosebumps over and over again,” says the servicewoman.

Photo from Anastasiia’s personal archive.

However, Makhov was preparing Anastasiia to go to war. On February 24, he went to fight without hesitation.

“That day, I started calling my parents, who were in the Kherson region at that time, and my sister in Zaporizhzhia. I asked them to leave, but no one listened to me. At the same time, I kept in touch with Sasha, who was urgently returning from a work trip to the Donetsk region. I grabbed my backpack and went to work,” says Anastasiia Blyshchyk.

She spent three years thinking about joining the army, but these were just thoughts. After the death of her beloved, she took action. Anastasiia Blyshchyk is now in de-occupied Izium, 20 kilometers from the village of Dovhenke, where Makhov died.

For the third month now, she has not appeared on live broadcasts or written reports. Today, she is a press officer in the Izium territorial defense battalion. Anastasiia Blyshchyk organizes work for journalists and makes sure it is safe for them.

“I serve with people who hardly talk about their achievements. They say: “We are not heroes, we have always been fulfilling our duty.” I smile and answer: “You are the best,” says the servicewoman.