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Women in the Armed Forces: Liana became a combat medic in the artillery unit when she was only 18

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

Liana is a medic in the ULF medical service of the “Da Vinci Wolves” special unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The girl is now 24, but she first joined the artillery unit six years ago. “I created a new comfort zone for myself during the war” says Liana. Here is her story.

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

Liana is 24 years old. Almost everyone in her family was an educator, from her great-grandfather to her mother. Liana chose a different path and entered a medical college after school. “If medicine is not for me, then at least it will come in handy,” the girl thought.

In 2016, after completing a pre-diploma internship and receiving a medical diploma, Liana joined the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“If I had not had a medical education, I would have never made this decision. In addition, I was asked to join — they said that doctors were in need and that there was not enough help.”

But I had no idea what the army was like and what was waiting for me. I simply went to the Military Commissariat — I had to be registered for the military anyway. They asked me if I would go to the east to fight. I said yes, and they quickly took me there,” says the medic.

When the war started, Liana was 16. The girl does not remember very clearly the Russian occupation of Crimea and the invasion of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Her consciousness refused to perceive and comprehend those events, only fragments left imprinted in her memory.

“You come home from lessons, turn on the TV news, and do not understand how there may be a war 200 kilometers from your home,” says the girl.

After some time, Liana’s friends went to the war as volunteers. One by one, they died.

“I am a true patriot. I have never even thought about leaving Ukraine. Then I caught the 6th mobilization wave. When I arrived at the unit, they kept me there for half a day. Everyone had only one question: “Where do we put this child?” Liana recalls.

At that time, the girl was 18 and had no combat experience. Liana became a combat medic in the artillery unit, but from the very beginning, she wanted to join the infantry. Later, she managed to do it. The direction was the Donetsk region, namely Mariinka, Popasna, and Chermalyk. Liana was part of the “Donbas” battalion. There she had her first combat experience, the first wounded, and the first dead.

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

After three years of service, she returned to civilian life. “When I joined the army, I left my comfort zone at home and created a new one during the war. When I went home, the transition happened again. I did not understand people, sometimes they annoyed me with their ignorance of the fact that there was a war. I tried not to mention that I had served in the army because the reactions were different,” she shares.

Over time, she got used to civilian life again — Liana worked in a clinic and then started practicing cosmetology.

“I dreamed about it. I told myself: 2022 will be the best year. I started turning a profit and expanding my clientele. I believed that everything would work out at such a pace. I took courses and planned trips — on February 24 I was supposed to go on vacation,” says the servicewoman.

A month before the events, she would jokingly tell her friends that she needed to buy a new military uniform. At the same time, she did not believe in these words.

“It took a long time to decide to return to the front. For the first week and a half after February 24, I couldn’t fully understand what was happening — I was under stress,” the girl says.

Later, she started working with civilians in an ambulance but immediately felt she was not doing enough. This feeling overwhelmed her the same way as in 2016. The girl enlisted in the “ULF” medical service of the “Da Vinci Wolves” special unit. Now the life of the Ukrainian military depends on Liana’s work — she evacuates and transports the wounded to the hospital.

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

“Everything is simple with the dead,” she says calmly. “It’s a pity, nothing more. This is my job, and things like this happen at work. Now I see many people who are going through this experience for the first time. They are certainly different from those who have already seen the reality of war before,” says the servicewoman.

Liana seeks to return the temporarily occupied territories and establish justice for all crimes committed by Russia.

Translated by Anastasiia Belanova