Story #123: Lawyer Defends Ukraine Back-to-Back with Her Husband

November 17, 2023
Lawyer Maryna makes a U-turn in life to serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

As the Russian full-scale war unfolded on February 24, Maryna realized that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were the safest place for both her and her husband.

Her spouse, a veteran familiar with the horrors of war, told her that there was no way to protect her without a weapon, signifying his decisions to come back to the frontlines.

"I had no idea what I would do in the army, unable to imagine how scary and challenging it would be," Maryna said.

Joining the armed forces was only a matter of time and readiness for Maryna, a former lawyer from Kyiv.

For me, the Ukrainian army has represented titanic courage, stability, and resilience since 2014. I idealized our army, and now, amid the large-scale invasion, I longed to become a part of it.

Her belif in a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, led by Putin in particular, had surfaced long before the actual invasion. She knew that 2014 had already put it on the map of Ukraine's future.

"For me, the war began when Russia annexed Crimea and seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. It was then, in 2014, that I learned about the war crimes committed in Donbas," Maryna explains.

In those years, Maryna was volunteered at the Kyiv Military Hospital, and her husband has been a serviceman since then and before he got injured.

But when Russia invaded Ukraine full-scale in 2022, neither injury nor any other factor could deter the couple from defending their homeland. But not everything went according to their plan at first.

"On February 25, I went to the Military Commissariat, but couldn't even get inside due to the overwhelming queues. Despite several more attempts, I was refused because I lacked special military knowledge and skills."

Maryna's husband was refused as well because of his health issues. But as it was said, nothing could stand in their way.

The husband found his place in the territorial defense, and Maryna used the time she wasn't needed at the front to purchase various ammunition and medical supplies for the military, and to assist people fleeing the war. As a lawyer, she also provided legal aid to military personnel and displaced persons when the courts were not operating.

After months of helping in the rear, they found a battalion that was only forming. As members of it, they finally became a part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

"We have been serving the Ukrainian people since May 2022. When I joined the battalion, it felt like time had stopped, yet it was also racing by. I was excited to hold a weapon for the first time and eager to learn how to use it. Attending tactical classes was difficult, but I enjoyed it and wanted to delve deeper. Taking the oath of loyalty to the Ukrainian people, I realized I had become a fully-fledged combat unit, and pride filled me. I am a part of such great power," Maryna remembers.

Regardless, she doesn't deny they hoped the war would end soon and everyone would be able to return home. As many other servicemen, they had their things to miss.

"I left my own law practice and all my clients. My husband also resigned from his job. Together, we left our home, entrusted our beloved dog to our parents, and embarked on a significant change in our lives for long."

Despite this and the fact that there is still no end in sight to this war, no compromise is possible. They will fight until other Ukrainians continue. Furthermore, Maryna claims that losing some of her close friends has significantly motivated her. At the same time, it causes her great pain, which she doesn't try to conceal.

Any loss for me is a personal tragedy, so I never hold back my emotions. I am not ashamed to cry; it helps me. I have also worked with a psychotherapist.

In addition to this, a part of her heart is torn by the world she had to leave behind. While defending the homeland, she couldn't be there for her mother when her granny died. Every time a family member falls ill, Maryna blames herself for being far away.

Still, there are many people she's helping where she is.

"Since 2014, I've provided legal aid to the military, drawing on my experience. I assist in our unit when needed, mainly aiding soldiers from other units. I receive numerous requests via mail and phone calls daily, and I never turn anyone away. I strive to be as helpful as possible, continually enhancing my skills with knowledge and experience. This brings me immense satisfaction, maintaining my abilities while helping people, a strong motivator for me."

As of now, her main duties in the army are handling documents and facilitating communication between units and higher command, and her proficient weapon skills remain vital for her.

While she has grown accustomed to the trembling earth beneath her feet and living in a state of constant fear, what she cannot accept is people's apathy towards the war.

"Some despair arose in me a few months ago. It was when I saw the indifference of many people to the war. For them, the war is far away, it is no longer theirs which is very disheartening."

However, having become a soldier, Maryna learned how to cheer up or to ground herself.

When she finds time for reading, it calms her down; when she feels numb, as if she's lost the ability to fear, she reaches out to her friends; and when the fear returns, she confides in her spouse.

"Every day, I speak with my husband. Even though he does not support my decision to be in the Armed Forces, he is my only supporter here, in the army. When I'm with him, I'm not afraid of anything."

Of course, the hope to come back home remains warm within them. But there's no way this brave Ukrainian couple would choose it over serving in the army.

Yelyzaveta Dzhulai
Journalist at UkraineWorld