Babushka, with Rifle

The photo of Babushka (Grandma) Lida bearing a rifle and staring at the camera with an attitude that clearly shows she rejects all attempts at intimidation has become an internet meme embodying the determination, courage, heart, and strength of Ukrainian people.  

I love the photo, and the Babushka, who reminds me of my own paternal grandmother, and of countless other strong, wise, determined, and fiercely compassionate women who are rooted in their hearts, integrity, and being. These women have no need to dissemble. 

Why is it, however, that we notice and honor Babushka only when she is holding an item usually associated with men — when she bears a weapon — having finally been pushed to use arms and force to defend her country, home, and family?

Where was public admiration and our own personal esteem for Babushka Lida before she took up the rifle?

Where was recognition of her strength in raising a family, and kudos for the years of selfless, unflinching daily care she gave to the children she birthed, to their children, to the children’s children, to all children? Where was the recognition for the countless days Babushka Lida spent stitching durable clothes, knitting comforting blankets, collecting and curing wood to build warming fires in the family hearth? Who praised Babushka when she spend hours rolling varenyki by hand, shared the family’s food with the hungry guest, and cared for the family pets and the house-bound neighbor?

Who paid attention to the elderly grandmother during the decades she spent deftly wielding women’s tools to care for the individuals of her family, town, country, and world? Who noticed as Babushka lived each day of her life expressing the compassionate and nurturing qualities commonly associated with women, but in truth, found within all humans?

If we gave more value to the everyday words, actions, and lessons taught us by our mothers and our grandmothers, and if we learned to value compassion and humanity as demonstrated in the too-often-ignored lives of our own babushkas, I believe societies would not create self-obsessed madmen bent on power and destruction — or permit them to be become dictators who destroy — and there would be no need for the Babushka Lidas to bear arms to protect the values and qualities they have been teaching us all along. 

©2022 KM Koza

The photo was posted on Twitter by @Visgrad24.

© Kelly Manjula Koza unless otherwise noted.