In Ivankiv, a town 80 kilometers northwest of Kiev, Russian soldiers arrived on February 24 and left on April 1. For the women of the city, these 36 days of occupation in the framework of the war in Ukraine have been hell. “I was scared because people started talking about raped girls”says Dasha, a young jeweler. At a coffee table, she conjures up the terror in which everyone has lived. “In the village of Zaproudka, right next door, there were cases”ensures.
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This is the heavy price paid by women in this war: they are raped, tortured, attacked. Dasha herself experienced a traumatic episode. “Here, near my work, I saw a car of Russian soldiers. They were either drugged or drunksays the young jeweler. It was very scary, because they rolled down the window and stopped. I thought: where am I running? Where am I running? What should I do ? I was scared.” Fortunately for her, none of them touch her.
To escape the abuses of Russian soldiers, Ukrainian women had to adapt their way of life. “The Russians entered the house of a former colleague. They told her not to let the girls out of the house and to dress like a homeless person so as not to attract attention.” Consequence: several women from Ivankiv “have been neglected”he says, so as not to be noticed, especially since there were Chechen soldiers in the village. “It was very scary there! The girls never went out: the men forbade them to protect them.
Some women have decided to go further, cutting their hair to become as invisible as possible. “They no longer wanted to be attractive! They no longer wore make-up, they put the headscarf on like in the villages …”, details Tatiana Syvrydemko, city councilor of the city. She is still traumatized by this episode. “It froze. Look at me: I would never have gone to work dressed like this before.” She is convinced that women will keep these habits until the end of the war. “I’ll explain it to you from woman to woman, so that you understand”she slips.
“Even if they are gone, we are still afraid. It will last until there is peace. People will need time to recover from this post-traumatic syndrome.”Tatiana Syvrydemko, Ivanko city councilor
In Borodianka, located 45 kilometers south of Ivankiv, the inhabitants also went to great lengths to protect the women of the city. “They were looking for girls: we discovered it and we hid them where we could”says Valentina. The old woman tells of the subterfuge used: “We hid some in the basement. My friend wanted to hide her 17-year-old granddaughter in the hay, but the Russians fired on it, so she decided to hide it in a drain.”
In front of her house, the old woman remembers the passage of the soldiers: “They broke into every house. They were looking for weapons and asked, ‘Are there men? Are there women?’ The Barbarians! “ It shows what remains of another house: here, six people from the same family die crushed in the rubble.
Young women are not the only ones who have lived in fear of rape and assault in Borodyanka, a city called a martyr. Even older women like Valentina were terrified and felt insecure. “One day I went out and I was going straight into the swamps. A soldier came out of a bush and said to me: ‘Grandma, where are you going?’ I told him: ‘I’m going to feed my dogs.’ He replied: ‘Grandma, I’ll kill you!’ I said: “No, my son. Maybe you have a grandmother too. “He let me go.”
He also tells of the persistence of this fear, even after the departure of the Russian troops. “I take painkillers because I can’t sleep at night. Every car that drives by feels like they’re coming back. How scary! I’d give anything in the world to make sure they don’t come back.”
>> War in Ukraine: a mother and her daughter recount two weeks of rape and terror in Boutcha
Although the rumors are starting to be heard, it is difficult to know precisely how many women have been raped or assaulted. Indeed, many Ukrainian women are still silent about what happened to them.
Lyudmila Denisova, head of human rights in the Ukrainian parliament, documented the cases of 25 women kept in a cellar and raped in Boutcha.
President Volodymyr Zelensky talks about it “hundreds of recorded rape cases, including underage girls and young children”. The NGO La Strada claims to have received nine appeals for rape committed by Russian soldiers on women between the ages of 12 and 50.