By Erwan Castel

Women at the heart of the battles

Seen from the Donbass

Today March 8 is celebrated Women’s Day, and allow the heart of this burning topicality this message of love and admiration for those who are in my eyes in the heart of human storms the high guardians of Life, Traditions and Human Hope.

Calling Women “the weaker sex” is certainly one of the worst nonsense conveyed by this Western monotheistic phallocracy which has infected European mentalities despite a few exceptions (which confirm the rule) such as the Marian cult and the myth of Joan of Arc for example .

Often relegated in the history of Western wars to a passive or ignored role, women on the contrary turn out to be combatants in their own right, and more! because their feminine and maternal dimension gives them the symbolic power of what Man fights for until the supreme sacrifice, for his sanctuary and his freedom!

Since I arrived in the Donbass, the women I met in the bombarded neighborhoods or in the trenches have not only impressed me with their natural elegance but above all with their courage and their love for this black land too often reddened with the blood of its children, and I understand why the Greek myths at the origin of this founding myth often situate the people of the Amazons on these northern shores of the Black Sea where for eight years the daughters of the Novorossiya have resuscitated their legend with a bravery that has never not to be ashamed of that of their elders of the Red Army having already risen only 3 generations ago against the madness of Nazism.

The land of Novorossiya cradle of the legendary Amazons
Hercules against the Amazons, Greek vase 6th century BC

If war is often considered as a “men’s affair”, we must not however neglect the place of women in the military history of peoples… On the contrary because the Woman is not only the living symbol of the forbidden sanctuary, mother, companion or daughter of the warrior, but also proves to be an essential participant in the war effort. And when we look closely at revolts, revolutions and wars, not only do we see women there, but many of them play a decisive and symbolic role in the writing in letters of blood of the heroic pages of a human adventure, unfortunately painful.

In 2014, when the war fell on the Donbass, there were many mothers, sisters and daughters who from Donetsk and Lugansk went to pick up a weapon, a first aid kit, a bag of ammunition and food and carry themselves, unblinking to the Ukrainian armored madness destroying their homes.

Ilona Bonevich, callsign “Bonja” in 2014, this woman commands a unit
special, injured in the fire, twice decorated… with the group of Commander Givi and a workforce of only 120 militiamen, she will defend the city of Iliovaïsk, attacked  by several Ukrainian armored battalions supported by shelling. Faced with the fierce resistance of this handful of lovers of their land, the enemy, vexed, ended up beating a retreat, estimating their forces… at 3,500 men!
Workers, nurses, paramedics, messengers, but also combatants, these women of honor are often present in the turmoil, from the back of the front to the heart of the battles, and their actions have nothing to envy to the courage and the heroism of their brothers in arms alongside whom are  courageously defended the values, traditions and freedoms of a people of Europe threatened for 8 years by an ethnocentric and genocidal dictatorship under the orders of a foreign power.

And at a time when the towns of the People’s Republic of Lugansk, Severodonetsk and Lisichansk are about to be finally liberated by the republican forces supported by the “north wind”, my thoughts go out to these teenagers of the “Battalion of the young self-defense” who, in August 2014 sacrificed themselves to allow the militias to escape the encirclement and retreat to a front line that they will hold until today:

This teenager had volunteered with her classmates to defend  their city of Lisichansk in August 2014: 72 young people, and without military training, aged 16 to 18, of whom 24 girls had trained the “Young Self-Defense Battalion”. They will achieve the unthinkable: resist for 2 days against 2000 Ukrainian soldiers supported by armor and artillery. 18 of them will die for their land including this heroic young girl, many others will be injured and some will even manage to escape the encirclement and join the ranks of the Luhansk militia. Eternal memory for these heroes!

Today the women of Donbass, like their Palestinian, Syrian,  Yemeni, Armenian, Kurdish sisters… are in their fidelity to the past a universal example for the future of the peoples, of their dignity and freedom.

Indeed, since the dawn of time, the Woman has been in the front line to defend this hearth that she embodies even in her womb, and thus to enter the heroic legend of nations: from the Egyptian Ahhotep, to Geneviève de Galard, the angel of Dien Bien Phu, via Zenobie the Syrian, Bodicea the Celtic, Hangaku Gozen the Japanese, Joan of Arc the French, Anne Bonny the English, Animatou de Zaria the African, Calamity Jane the American, Phûlan Devî, the Indian, Sophie Magdalena Scholl the German, Laskarina Bouboulina the Greek, Rosa Luxembourg, Louise Michel, Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier; Lucie Aubrac, Marie, Dolores, Anne, Françoise, Greta and so many other known or unknown fighters but so numerous in history that there would be a lack of

But here, in this Donbass at war, I admit that women are exceptionally courageous, selfless and sacrifice for their country and their people, resisting with incredible resilience 8 years of war and genocidal bombardments.

Perhaps they are also carried – and certainly – by this heritage of Slavic women in general and Russian women in particular, who engaged massively alongside men during the wars of their History and in particular in the 20th century when complete units were even consecrated, such as the “death battalion” and its 2000 volunteers deployed on the German-Russian front during the First World War.

But it was especially during the Great Patriotic War from 1941 to 1945 that, responding to the principle of Marxist-Leninist equality of equal citizenship, thousands of Russian women enlisted from 1941 in the ranks of the regular Red Army. but also in those of the partisans. These women enlisted as auxiliaries of course, but also tankers, snipers, airwomen, and they were more than 1 million to fight on the Russian front to defend the Motherland, that is 8% of the total troops engaged during the conflict!

Today the girls of Novorossiya have proved that they are worthy of the mythical amazons or the heroic fighters of the Red Army; defending with exemplary courage the land of their ancestors and their children!

Some smiles have faded but their eyes continue to shine in the sky of our memories:

On this day of March 8, I address my admiration to all the women who are the true heart of men and in particular to those who are at the heart of the fights led for their land of which they are the eternal guardians!

I wanted to offer all these girls, sisters, companions, mothers and “babouchkas” of Novorossiya, this tribute, but I realize with sadness that my words are only the miserable echo of the admiration I have for their courage. and their dignity… So I withdraw, letting my heart send them in silence my eternal gratitude for the noble example they offer us…

Erwan Castel

“What we fight for is worth more than our lives!” -Alexander Zakharchenko, 1st President of the Donetsk People’s Republic

Wounded Amazon by Franz von Stuck, 1903.