Millions of women in the Soviet army fought against the fascists. They filled various posts: nurses, sappers, aviators, tankers. Some of them still children, teenage girls.
The ones that still live today are around 90 years old. Their great home country no longer exists. They often live in countries which are not their place of birth or even their country of choice – after the fall of the USSR in 1991 a large part of the empire was replaced by more or less independent countries. No one asked my heroines whether they suddenly, at a mature age, wanted to give up their homeland for another. They exchanged their Soviet passports for new ones (sometimes keeping the old ones in drawers as souvenirs) and depending on the political situation some are still cogs in the patriotic propaganda machine, reap profits from it, or have become testimonies of an ambiguous history, belonging to an oppressive system.
The situation of women veterans of World War II in post-Soviet republics is doubly ambiguous today. They are women and women do not fight wars. War is a man’s game. Svetlana Alexievich wrote about women in the war in her book “War’s Unwomanly Face”. Their accounts did not resemble the war depicted in propaganda at all, which showed it as a war-time sacrifice, a heroic myth. For Alexievich’s subjects it was suffering, despair, physical and mental injury – they tear down the myth of a victorious war.