Ukraine’s victory amid its recent tensions with Russia should be topmost in the minds of people, according to a volunteer activist in the country’s eastern Donbas region, who along with several other pensioners have rolled up their sleeves to support the state army.

“I wish victory. And the victory should be first in our minds,” Oksana Murovleva, head of the Donetsk branch of the Union of Ukrainian Women Association and Faina Conversation Club, told Anadolu Agency.

Nearly three dozen volunteers — mainly retired female pensioners — work at the association in Kramatorsk, a city in the northern part of Donetsk Oblast, on weekdays while younger people also come to the association to help the volunteers on Saturdays.

“Our family (in Donetsk) has been thrown out of our house because it was pro-Ukrainian,” she said, adding almost all of the association’s volunteers had to flee their homes, which are now under the control of the pro-Russian separatists.

“All volunteers have a common grief,” Murovleva added.

As women are not able

to go to the frontline, they need to defend the rear of the front, she said.

Murovleva, a former university teacher of the Ukrainian language and literature from the city of Yasynuvata in the Donetsk Oblast of southeastern Ukraine, said Ukrainian women “should learn to earn for their livelihood and to be sure about their own future.”

“The problem of all societies is that when achieving a victory, they do not know what to do with it. We do not want to be slaves. We do not want someone to administer us. We want this victory to be the victory of Ukraine, to be a victory of our home state,” she said.

She noted that their association has launched a campaign to sew Ukrainian national clothes for newborn babies and present them to maternity hospitals free of charge.

“National clothes are the code of the nation,” she asserted.

Working with no days off

Nadejda Kolinchenkova, 70, a volunteer, said the association started operating in Kramatorsk in August 2014, when the conflict broke out between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia in 2014 annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in a move that has never been met with international recognition and which has been decried by Ukraine and much of the international community as illegal. That year also saw Russia begin its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, a policy it has maintained for the past eight years.

In response to Russia’s actions, NATO enhanced its presence in the eastern bloc, with four multinational battalion-size battlegroups deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland on a rotational basis.

Kolinchenkova, a retired design engineer, said the volunteers prepare handmade military camouflage nets and knit socks as well as make small pillows and send them to the front line to support Ukrainian forces.

“We have been working for the past eight years, since 2014. Until the middle of 2018, we were working with no days off. Now we have only one day off a week…Our defenders didn’t have a day off, and so we didn’t have a day off. We help as much as we can,” she said.

Kolinchenkova underlined that the “whole city, whole Ukraine” supports their voluntary activities.

As materials to produce the military camouflage nets, the volunteers use the fabric scraps provided by military textile factories and clothes of certain colors donated by local people, she said.

The volunteers also produce various handmade clothes and souvenirs which they sell regularly at various fairs and finance their activities from the money they obtain.

Some local businesspeople also support the volunteers financially with rental and other fees.

“In all these years, we knitted nearly 67,000 square meters (nearly 722,000 square feet) of military camouflage nets, including 12,500 square meters (around 134,500 square feet) knitted for the past two years,” she noted.

Up to 22 square meters (around 236 square feet) of military camouflage nets are being knitted every day, she added.

She went on to say that the volunteer sewers also stitch Ukrainian flags for the army and other places.

‘We live war every day’

“We live the war every day, since the very first day of the war. We work for the defenders of our country, the defenders from an aggressor. Russia attacked us, it invaded us. Slavs go to visit with a cake, but they came to us with a weapon. And whoever comes with a weapon, he dies from a weapon. And they will die from our weapon. And we will support our servicemen,” said Kolinchenkova.

“I personally think that our diplomats and politicians will manage to handle the situation. Besides, our servicemen know how to deal with a weapon and know how to fight back. And we will help (them) as much as we can,” she said.

“We only wish victory. And a victory is not always attained through peace and diplomacy. We wish any victory, and we will do whatever we can to help our army,” she added.

Russia recently amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.

Moscow has denied that it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises. It has also issued a list of security demands, including that Ukraine does not join NATO.

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