UARU
Meet One of the First 120 Women to Have Marched in Military Parade in Kyiv
24 August, 2018

This year’s August 24 military parade in honor of Ukraine’s Independence Day was the first time that women participated in the event. Maryana Vilyura, a fourth-year military psychology student at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv’s Military Institute, was among these women.   

Maryana Vilyura at the Military Institution of the Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University  Campus, Kyiv, August 23, 2018. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

“Last year, I was on lying on my sofa at home watching the parade on TV and thinking ‘oh my God, poor things, how long did it take them to train?’” she tells Hromadske. “And now I’m one of them.”

The specially selected group of female military personnel marched separately in their own column.

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

Vilyura grew up in Lutsk. Her father is a soldier and her mother is doctor at a military hospital. Her younger sister is also in her first year at the Military Institute and hopes to become a journalist. She received training to participate in the parade but as part of the reserves.

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

Vilyura says that despite it being a family tradition, she has not always dreamed of a military education and pursuing a life for herself in the army. However, when an opportunity to do so arose in 2014, she decided to take it.

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

The woman says that she made the decision to attend the Military Institute independently. Her parents did not force her into it, but instead helped her and gave her the right to choose. They understand that that it is a difficult career choice, but they were not going to interfere. They agreed that, if, in the future, Vilyura thinks that joining the army was a mistake, then she will take responsibility for it herself.

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

“My father was shocked at first, but he always wanted a son, so he came round eventually. But then my sister followed me [into the the Military Institute.] For our father, a military oath is something very important. He is proud of us, he is pleased that we are taking part in the parade. He watched every rehearsal, he was worried, he called us asking how we are. These things really bring us together.”

READ MORE: Ukrainian Military Academy Rejects Woman Based on Gender

Vilyura also felt that this type of education would be useful for a career in psychology. She has not had any doubts about her choice and now hopes to specialize in helping veterans adapt to civilian life once she has got her diploma.

Maryana Vilyura at the Military Institution of the Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University  Campus, Kyiv, August 23, 2018. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

When it comes to military psychology, Vilyura thinks that it was underdeveloped in the past and that it barely even existed during the Soviet era. The profession has moved forward now because of the war in eastern Ukraine. The woman is also happy about Ukraine’s active cooperation with experts from NATO states: in her opinion, Ukrainians can learn from them.

Spectators watching the military parade for Ukrainian Independence Day on Khreshchatyk street, Kyiv, August 24, 2018, Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, at the military parade for Ukrainian Independence Day, Kyiv, August 24, 2018, Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

“What does ‘independence’ mean to me? I associate it with freedom, some kind of spiritual freedom. These concepts are basically the same to me. Although there is little difference. If there is independence, then that means I am independent of something and for me it is really important that I am morally independent. Maybe spiritually [too]. That is the only difference. But freedom for me is the freedom to choose.”

Vilyura thinks that the fight for women’s rights to achieve and gender equality are very important. And this is especially true of the Armed Forces, where women should be able to rise to the same level as men, get to the same positions and receive equal pay.

Musician in the military orchestra at the military parade for Ukrainian Independence Day, Kyiv, August 24, 2018, Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

Military parade for Ukrainian Independence Day, Kyiv, August 24, 2018, Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

In the modern world, the line between masculine and feminine jobs is blurred, Vilyura believes. She thinks that there aren’t professions just for women or just for men. Everyone has their own place and if someone wants to join the army, then what difference should their gender make?

Military parade for Ukrainian Independence Day, Kyiv, August 24, 2018, Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

“The Ukraine in which I would like to live, and should be independent, is still a country where you make opportunities happen yourself. For some parts of the population, this is improving material wealth, because there is a problem with that now. We need to raise the country’s status, so that living here is prestigious. Like in Germany or America for example.”

Maryana was told about training for the parade two days before her holiday, so she was annoyed at first that she would not have time to relax. But that soon changed.  

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

“When we started the first rehearsal, we started at Antonov [international cargo] airport, which was really cool! When you realize that you are one of the first 120 women out of around 52,000 Ukrainian servicewomen, who will walk down Khreshchatyk, it is a incredible feeling. You feel this great responsibility.”  

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

These women were not selected because of their successes or quality of service. In fact, the decision was based on height and their ability to march. The group changed over the course of the month-long training: some were eliminated, others were replaced with reserves. From Monday to Sunday, they had six hours of training – four hours in the morning and two in the evening. They had days off on Sunday.

“It was quite hard, but it all turned out really well in the end,” Vilyura says. “Marching is fun for me, but standing is hard. The walking itself does not take up most of the energy, but on the formal event. A lot of girls think the same. Apart from that, the script for the parade is timetabled down to the second, and after a lot of rehearsals, you already know what happens at any moment. But maybe we’ll all miss this afterwards.”

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

When asked whether she noticed any cases of sexism during training, Vilyura said that she did not notice anything of the sort. The male officers who helped prepare the group of girls were not used to training women, but, according to Vilyura, not a single officer emphasized inferiority of women in the army.

The column of women military personnel, formed from students of Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University Military Institute and the Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, during a general rehearsal for the military parade, Kyiv, August 22, 2018 Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske

However, the male participants in the march did decide to serenade the female ones, as well as present them with flowers, she adds.

“From early in the morning, the Major General told us that there’s a surprise waiting for us. At first, we did not understand. Then they put us in the rows and the head of [the National Academy of Internal Affairs] came up to us and said that it’s a great honor to march alongside women. Then we were given flowers.”

/By Anastasia Vlasova