#WomenSpeak: “My room is my outpost," A dispatch from Ukraine

I am Kateryna Zubova, 59, a tower crane operator in Kyiv, Ukraine. I am a trade unionists for the last two years, though I work on the tower crane for 40 years now. In my free time, I love to grow indoor plants, especially flowers, so much that my apartment looks like a greenhouse. For me, each flower requires a separate approach, so I spend a lot of time studying information on how to properly care for a flower and how to water it.

Right now, it is difficult to talk about work without mentioning the war in my country. On 24 February, when the bombing of our country began, we received an instruction from our employers not to go to work. The Kyiv region was one of the most dangerous zones in the country for the first several months of the war. Working on a tower crane amidst the threat of air raids and missile attacks was a death sentence.

Without work and an imminent war upon us, I could not possibly just sit down at home and do nothing. This is not in my nature. I expressed my intention to join the territorial defense. However, due to my age, I was not accepted. 

Many people left the Kyiv region, but I didn’t want to go anywhere from my home. I already fled Luhansk once and thought that the war would never find me again. In the first few days of the war, all the concierges of our house went to safer places, and I practically took over their duties. The small room in our entire residential complex, where I sat alone, turned into a message centre. Hundreds of people came everyday and asked questions. They left messages and requested for them to be conveyed to their loved ones.

Our army has done so much to protect us. Not everyone can join the army. Yet, all of us need to contribute to the fight for freedom and democracy. My room was my outpost. There was no time to be afraid; there was no time to even think. I just went there and did what I could. It was only a few weeks later, when I had time to look around and gather myself, that fear and anxiety visited me.  

Today, all of unoccupied Ukraine has turned into one volunteer front. Our union helps the workers in any way it can. We have always extended help even before the war. We dealt with problems on non-payment of wages, violations of safety regulations, and dealt with work-related injuries.

Soon I, myself, will need the help of my union as I plan to apply for my pension. One of the immediate problems I face is the documentation of my long work experience. Half of my work experience can only be confirmed by documents that are located in the Luhansk region, which is now occupied. Such problems are usually resolved through the courts, and I am confident that the union will help me with this.

I am also confident than when this war is finally over, both women and men workers will participate in the reconstruction of Ukraine. We are now all working together as a united front. Everyone is doing their jobs and contributing in various ways. Women and men workers, young and old, are the builders of a new and better Ukraine. 

#WomenSpeak is a monthly article on gender issues and concerns authored by BWI’s different affiliate women workers. It seeks to provide women workers more spaces and platforms to express their thoughts and concerns on a variety of issues that are important to them as workers and most especially, as women.