March 8 is International Woman’s Day. To mark the occasion Draw The Public celebrates the Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchencko.
Since early childhood Nadiya Savchenko had wanted to fly. After leaving school determined to become a pilot she applied no less than three times to the Kharkiv Air Force University in Ukraine, but was denied because of her gender. Undeterred, she enlisted in the regular army instead, and trained as a radio operator. The blue sky still beckoned Savchenko, she decided the next best thing to flying aeroplanes was jumping out of them, and applied to join a paratroop battalion. Savchenko’s commander told her it was against army policy to admit women then relented,
“If you can run 15 kilometres in the snow while carrying a 15-kilo paratrooper backpack, you’re in!”
Savchenko trained shoulder to shoulder with male aspirants to earn her wings, and was deployed in Iraq as part of UN peacekeeping operations—the only female Ukrainian soldier to be stationed there. Upon her return to Ukraine she successfully petitioned the Defence Ministry for the right to apply to the Air Force University, and on her now fourth attempt was finally accepted. She graduated in 2009, specializing as navigator/gunner on the Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunship.
“I see goals, I don’t see obstacles.” A quote from Savchencko that demonstrates her tenacity.
In 2013 her story takes an ugly turn. In Ukraine civil unrest turns to war, and Russia seizes control of the Crimea. Savchenko volunteers to fight with ground forces defending Ukrainian sovereignty, and is captured by pro-Russian separatists. She is then smuggled over the border in handcuffs with a bag over her head, and imprisoned on charges of illegally entering the country and coordinating a mortar salvo in which two Russian journalists were killed. The charges, which Savchencko denies, are dubious; she was of course taken prisoner, and her defence lawyers have evidence Savchenko was already captured two hours before the attack.
Nadiya Savchenko has now languished in a cage for more than 8 months, the last two on a desperate hunger strike. Yet she remains dignified and quietly defiant in spite of her weak physical state. Nadiya means hope in the Ukrainian language—we can only hope for her release, and a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.
Media: Ink, and acrylic.