This photo series is a piece of social commentary which celebrates the women of Ukraine who have raised a generation that has managed to break free from the shadow of the former Soviet Union and gain worldwide recognition of its independence as well as overthrow a corrupt, oppressive regime.
These photos show elderly women in their workplace that in many other European countries would have been a few years into retirement, yet due to the country’s unstable financial situation the pension scheme is one of the worst in the world , and thus women of this age have to make ends meet by working in the small private businesses sector which includes selling food in market stalls, clothes or nannying. Many of these women however proffer much more aptitude and progressivism than meets the eye at first. To merely imagine the extent of their libraries at home would invoke a strong sense of a former education that would excel the intelligence of many.
The woman seen in the photo selling herbs with a painting of a ‘dacha’ behind her has been working in the Besarabka market in Kyiv for 56 years with her colleagues referring to her as ‘mama’. She sells herbal remedies and wishes the soldiers of Donbas to stay healthy through a more homeopathic method. My former nanny who features twice in the series previously worked in the Kyiv Radio Factory during the Soviet Union, managing a team of 13 men, designing and building heavy rocket machinery in addition to developing rocket precision software. Valentina Vasilievna has raised her children, her grandchildren, and my brother and I. Funnily enough, still at the age of 21, I refer to her as ‘mum’.
Amidst poor working conditions and incredibly low pensions these women strive for prosperity and change. However, what comforts them in these times of desperation is the fact that their hard work and integrity has carved a path for the new generation to be rid of the unjust and fraudulent ways of the old system and live in a reformed nation following the events of the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution (Revolution of Dignity). Due to their stern, yet caring ways of upbringing, the youth of Ukraine today have a determined mindset and all the necessary tools to achieve a brighter future, more closely affiliated with Europe. All this is with the hope that they manage to accomplish this in the lifetime of these remarkable women, so they can pay back what they have sacrificed.