In 2004, I ventured into Ukraine as a naive American who viewed the country as just another great adventurous year to be had by myself. I didn’t take the time to learn much about Ukrainian culture, the languages of Ukrainian and Russian, or anything about the history of this amazing nation. Wow was I in for a rude awakening due to my lack of concern to educate myself in advance of my stay there.
Upon arrival, I knew I was lost. I couldn’t communicate with anyone, I couldn’t read the signs in the unrecognizable alphabet, and I didn’t understand why things were even happening in the sequence that they were in the train station, grocery store or any other store I’d venture into for a look. Every Ukrainian I encountered during my first six weeks there must have thought I was either learning disabled severely or crazy. The women I lived near, worked with and encountered all attempted to reach out in a helpful manner to me! They we’re beautiful resilient women who had often lived challenging lives to gain their remarkable levels of education, a decent job, that rarely paid well, and an independent life in a land that was economically deprived for all unless you were mafia related.
While I got frustrated over every little aspect of my new life there, these ladies were rocks. Nothing defeated them. After several months I began to see their tremendous strengths and their tenacity of determination to overcome any obstacles thrown at them.
The Orange Revolution began shortly after I arrived, and I watched young women fight with their intellect for better politics, better economy, fairness, and improved human rights. A few even stood partially naked in the streets of Kiev to bring about worldwide awareness of the severe level of trafficking at hand Of Ukrainian women. Bottom line, they were bold and brazen and yet lovely and poised. On International Women’s Day that year, the Ukrainian men showered my women friends, and even me (Americanskaya) with huge bouquets of flowers, chocolates and perfumes.
While Ukrainian women remain some of those most trafficked and exploited women in today’s world, they draw strength from Intl Women’s Day, they take what they can from it and revel in the moment, and they seldom complain about the challenges they still face. They simply look forward and move assertively toward a better way in their future. And for these amazing characteristics, Jo’el Worldwear salutes them today as a reigning example for women worldwide. Happy International Women’s Day!