One Woman Does! Her Difference that Matters.
When I think of women who exemplify the epitome of women’s empowerment, I think of women who physically and mentally had to fight for their voices to be heard. I think of Fanny Fern, Gloria Steinem, Anna Politkovskaya and most recently Oksana Chelysheva. Oksana is one of the few people that have proven, to me, that one woman’s determination has made a difference that has saved many lives. Oksana Chelysheva is a woman I consider an unsung hero, someone who has been exiled out of her homeland and labeled an extremist for voicing her opinion against the Russian government.
Despite all this, she continues to speak out, publish articles and travel into war-torn areas to help those in need.
Oksana was born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia and was considered an extremist for her involvement with the Chechen-Russian Friendship Society in 2007. She is one of Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics. While speaking at a conference in Paris about the atrocities taking place in Chechnya, her Russian passport was stolen. She reported back to the Russian authorities that her passport was stolen and that she needed a replacement. She was told, “no passport, no entry back into Russia.” This message from told her loud and clearly….if you come back to Russia, you will never leave. That was ten years ago. Her 7-year-old daughter and mother were still in Russia and Oksana was forced to seek asylum in Finland.
She would not see her mother and daughter for the next five years.
Despite these obstacles, Oksana didn’t quietly go away and begin a new career; she kept forging ahead, determined even more to speak out about the Russian regime and what she was being put through. She would go on to write a book, “They Followed Me into the Street” to share her stories about being targeted by the Russian Government. The Russian government, of course, banned the book, but she was able to get the book published in other countries. Unfortunately she couldn’t get an American publishing house to publish her book, but there are English versions of her book available. Her book is now available on Amazon.
She continues to speak about various corruption issues currently taking place within Russia and around the world. In addition, she volunteers her time traveling to Ukraine providing supplies and support to people in need. Since the annex, war has broken out in many areas and over 9,000 have lost their lives. Survivors of the crisis are left with nothing and Oksana has made it her mission travel to some of the most war-torn areas in Ukraine, such as Donbass, Krasnodone and Kiev to deliver clothing, medical supplies, food and water to those who have lost everything. Understanding that people with mental and physical disabilities can be the most vulnerable in war-torn areas, she also strives to ensure they receive supplies and support. Oksana has single-handedly helped many people from starving to death and those who would die due to lack of medications. In addition, she works to find suitable living spaces for those seeking shelter.
I follow Oksana on Facebook and have sent her supplies to send to people in need in Ukraine. Oksana takes photos of everything that is donated to her and of the people who receive the donations. Oksana also posts the many atrocities taking place in Ukraine that news agencies do not. Facebook actually shut her account down, due to some of the horrific images she was posting, showing what is happening to the people in Ukraine. She created another account and continues to share this information.
I often wonder, if Oksana was a man would she be treated differently? Would she have been exiled by her own homeland? Would the media continue to ignore the courageous humanitarian work that she is doing? Would other international organizations continue to treat her as inferior? Would she continue to be disrespected verbally and physically by those who disagree with her? Men seemed to be hailed as “aggressive” and “assertive” when it comes to fighting for their rights and the rights of others.
Women however, are scolded, scorned and at times, like Oksana, ostracized for being involved and are described as “nagging” or “bitching” when it comes to human rights.
I am always in awe of her courage and determination to speak out about human rights atrocities, knowing that it puts her in more danger. Her constant traveling in and out of areas where she is risking her life to help others seems to be a self-less addiction, an addiction you rarely find in people.
This article is just “skimming the surface” for the work that Oksana has done to bring help to hundreds of people. She continues to publish articles, speak in various parts of the world to bring awareness of what is happening to people in Ukraine and educating people about the truth of the Russian government. She is a woman I highly admire for her work and her courage. I find her courage very inspirational, she refuses to be silenced or give into fear to halt her humanitarian efforts. Here is one of Oksana’s articles describing some of her experiences in Ukraine and how she is fighting to get more help for those in need into Ukraine.
She clearly proves one woman can make a difference to better the lives of others despite the life-threatening challenges and obstacles thrown her way. I am honored to be able to help her in some small way.