Outstanding women in Ukrainian history

Outstanding women in Ukrainian history

Images: Nadiya Savchenko, Saint Olha, Princess of Kyiv, Roksolana / Anastasia Lisovska & Solomiya Krushelnytska

There are many outstanding women in Ukrainian history. They were state rulers, artists, writers and poets. They shaped our nation and culture, our perception of the world and world’s perception of us. Here are just a few of them:

Saint Olha, Princess of Kyiv (around 889-969): powerful state ruler of Kyiv Rus, an ancient Slavic state that existed on the territory of Ukraine (actually, it was stretching even beyond Ukraine’s contemporary borders). Around 955 in Constantinople she was baptized, thus becoming the first Christian ruler of Kyiv Rus. However, she did not manage to make Christianity a state religion. She is also famous for her tax regulation policy, town planning initiatives and international treaty concluded with Byzantine.

Anne of Kyiv, Queen of France (around 1024-1025): the daughter of the Prince of Kyiv Rus Yaroslav the Wise. She was the Queen Consort of the King Henry I of France (spouse), mother of the King Phillip I of France and the ancestor of almost 30 French monarchs. On the wedding day, she presented her husband a book – the New Testament – that she brought from Kyiv Rus. It was written in the old Slavic language with the use of Cyrillic script. French kings were sworn in with their hands on that New Testament until 1793.

Roksolana / Anastasia Lisovska / Hürrem Sultan (around 1505-1561): the favorite spouse of Suleiman I the Magnificent, the Caliph of Islam, and the 10th and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. For almost 30 years, she was one of the most influential persons of the Islamic world. Her name is connected to the construction of many landmarks of Istanbul.

Marusia Churai (around 1625-1653): legendary Ukrainian singer and poet. Some of her songs are still popular.

Marko Vovchok (pen name) / Maria Vilinska (1833-1907): Ukrainian writer. She is the author of many new genres in national literature.

Mariya Zankovetska (stage name) / Maria Adasovska (1854-1934): the prominent theater actress. The title of the People’s Artist of the Republic was granted to he as an acknowledgement of her outstanding talent by the Government of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (that Government ceased its existence when Ukraine was concurred by Bolsheviks’ Red Army).

Olha Kobylyanska (1863-1942): Ukrainian writer and active member of the feminist movement.

Lesya Ukrainka (pen name) / Larysa Kosach-Kvitka (1871-1913): one of the brightest and most well-known Ukrainian authors. Her literary heritage is huge. She was writing both prose and lyrics. Also, she was an activist of Ukrainian national movement.

Solomiya Krushelnytska (1872-1952): was widely recognized as the most prominent opera voice of her time. She was singing in 8 languages at the most famous world stages and had got numerous international awards. Giacomo Puccini called her “the greatest and most charming Madame (Madama) Butterfly”.

Kateryna Bilokur (1900-1961): Ukrainian artist, painter of the “naïve art”. Pablo Picasso was deeply impressed by her works displayed at the International Exhibit in Paris in 1954.

Olena Teliha (1906-1942): Ukrainian poet and activist of the national movement. During the II World War and Ukraine’s occupation, she founded Ukrainian Writers’ Union and was the editor of weekly magazine “Litavry” (“Timpani”). She was executed by German Nazi in Kyiv, in Babyn Yar (the venue of mass executions).

Maria Prymachenko (1909-1997): Ukrainian popular artist, “naïve art” painter. According to UNESCO decision, 2009 was the year of Mariya Prymachenko.

Alla Gorska (1929-1970): Ukrainian artist, activist of the dissidents’ movement (opponents of the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union) and human rights’ defender.

Lina Kostenko (1930 р.н.): Ukrainian writer and poet, active participant of dissidents’ movement. She has numerous awards in literature. Among them are Shevchenko National Prize (1987), Antonovychs’ Annual Award (1989) and Petrarka Award (1994).

Nina Matviyenko (1947 р.н.): Ukrainian famous singer of folk songs. She has honorary title of the People’s Artist of Ukraine.

The younger generation of Ukrainian women is no less worthy of being mentioned here. They are no less patriotic, courageous and selfless than their prominent ancestors.

We cannot but mention all women who in November 2013 - February 2014 were at Maidan in Kyiv in the moments of highest danger: all medical workers, volunteers and everybody else, who came called by their souls and was saving lives. 

The highest tribute is to be paid to courageous women that are currently defending Ukraine from Russia’s military aggression, including all volunteers who daily risk their lives when deliver supplies to the front line and humanitarian aid to the affected areas.

Of course, an outstanding figure is Nadia Savchenko, Ukrainian military pilot, member of Multi-National Force in Iraq (2004), Hero of Ukraine, Member of Parliament and Ukraine’s parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. On June 18, 2014, she was abducted in eastern Ukraine by Russia-led militants and illegally brought to Russia, where she was prosecuted on false allegations.

Since then she is remaining in illegal detention under the permanent heavy psychological pressure. Her civil rights and human freedoms, including the right for justice, are continuously brutally violated by Russian authorities. As a protest, she went on hunger strike on December 13, 2014 (lasted 83 days). In spite of the threat to her life confirmed by physicians and multiple calls of the world community the situation has not been improved. Kremlin keeps on neglecting and violating the law.

Nadia Savchenko is a symbol of Ukraine’s steadfastness and freedom, an example of genuine patriotism and courage. Nation that has such heroes can never retreat or be defeated.