Anna Tuyenova, 29, is accustomed to having few goods and travelling around a lot because she spent eight years fighting on the front lines with the Ukrainian military.
In some ways, today is no different: she arrived as one of the first guests at a newly constructed shelter in Lviv, western Ukraine, for pregnant women who have been forced to flee their homes with the minimal needs of life packed into one huge black suitcase and a few tiny bags. These contain the last vestiges of her life in the eastern city of Lysychansk, which she and her daughter Milena, then two, evacuated in late May. On a late July afternoon, Milena is bouncing up and down in a cot in their sun-drenched room as Anna beamingly announces, “I turn 30 tomorrow.” The shelter, which is outside of Lviv, is so brand-new that the walls still have a slight aroma of recently-cut wood. Anna describes being drafted into the military as an accident. Prior to 2014, she worked in Kyiv as a translator and accountant in two different capacities. Although she is secure in Lviv, she frequently considers going back to the front lines. Though in the past it required her to hand up her parental responsibilities to the state for protracted periods of time, she yearns for the powerful sense of purpose and responsibility she experienced in the army.