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The Ukrainian culture is
a standout amongst the most shining religion due to its unique and diverse. In
1991, Ukrainian independence opened a significant theoretical channel for
debating the position of its woman, during the independence movement and the
ongoing negotiation of a Ukrainian national identity, the ancient figure of the
Berehynia revived as a significant symbol of womanhood and motherhood.The Goddess was, above
all, the Great Mother of the gods and all living things (Humenna 1976, 182).
Her image became one of the primary universal symbols and proto-images of the
sacred and became known as Berehynia guardian. According to Marian J.
Rubchak, in the late nineteenth century, the wood sprites, or water nymph
merged with the concept of the ancient ‘hearth mother’ to breathe a new life
into a waning matriarchal topos, which became known as Berehynia (elaborated by
Whitmont, 1982; Skurativsky, 1987; Ruban, 1992). The Berehynia is a mythical
Ukrainian goddess, the nation’s “hearth mother” and protectress. She represents
the ancient matriarchal topos in the minds of many contemporary Ukrainians.
However, as Marian J. Rubchak speculate, this communication is not
unproblematic, since “That topos of ancient Ukrainian
civilization is currently being deployed as a rhetorical device to help
validate Ukraine’s ancient lineage as a nation. It is also being manipulated to
promote the fiction that Ukrainians have no need of any subversive innovation
as Western-style feminism, insofar as the people have always been feminists
(read ‘a matriarchal society’)” (Rubchak, 2009, p. 132). As Rubchak shows, the
myth of matriarchy impedes women’s material progress at the same time that it
uses womanhood as the site for nationhood. (Bisikalo, 2017)The Berehynia is a pagan
goddess from the ancient Slavic mythology, a figure understood to be the
guardian of both the family and the nation, and variously conceptualized as a
hearth mother, an earth goddess, and a domestic Madonna (Phillips 2008, 50-54).
Kis (2007) notes that the different Berehynia figure, which combines the core
element of self-sacrificial motherhood, Christianity, and devotion of the
nation, “pretend to be an embodiment of a native femininity.” She also argues
that the Berehynia “has certain matriarchal implications, which encourage a
woman to be dominant, competent and decisive but only within her proper domain
of competence.” The Berehynia as a symbol of Ukrainian womanhood encourages the
woman to engage in the natural and cultural reproduction of the nation, to
devote themselves to the maternal role and foster the revival of the
traditional Ukrainian family.Men ultimately
appropriated control over all decision-making processes, the ancient notion of
female centrality grew into an abiding constituent of the nation’s culture.
Although the old hearth mother is now but a distant memory in Ukrainian lore,
her topos endures as part of the ideographic system. Thus, each generation
recaptures the memory of the once empowered hearth mother in a mostly
constructive, as opposed to a retrieval process, and female centrality remains
lodged as an idea in the Ukrainian psyche. The overall ideology of empowered
womanhood embedded in the iconic image of Berehynia is being revoked in the
public sphere today.The most prominent
example of the Berehynia in public and political space is a sculpture of her
atop the monument in Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti). Its
erected in 2001 under President Leonid Kuchma on the site of the Soviet-era
statue of the “Father of the Soviet State,” Vladimir Lenin (Rubchak, 2009). The
monument is the feminine embodiment of an independent Ukraine, fusing womanhood
with nationhood. Also, the symbolic empowerment of Berehynia is also enshrined
in the Ukraine, especially the numerous sculptural monuments erected throughout
the Soviet era. The bas-relief of a woman was the most arresting
representations of such monumental art. It was an outstanding example of the
many expressions of the Ukrainian non-conformity in the visual arts during
specific periods of Soviet rule, and the woman personifies the Amazon-like
strength of a superhuman female as a significant force in the Soviet world of
power.The narrative of
Berehynia is based on the idea of matriarchy as inherent to Ukrainian society
from ancient times up to the present. This idea first originated in the works
of the Ukrainian ethnographers and folklorists publishing at the turn of the
twentieth century. Also strengthened by Ukrainian literature, which reflected
the culture of a stateless nation and therefore praised folk culture. The
modern concept of Berehynia is a symbolic matriarch and guardian of Ukrainian
national culture and ethnic identity. Over time, the Berehynia was narrative,
which originated as a part of Ukrainian national mythology, has thus become a
core element of a new federal ideology (Hankivksy 2013, 209).The Ukrainian woman was
treated differently than men in many aspects. Men had control over the variety
of positions, and there were few women in politics. Although when the woman
raised questions and tried to determine why, the majority of men responded “it
is not a good time for women to take an active part in political life,
experiencing a gigantic power struggle, demanding hair-trigger reactions and,
intense concentrations, attributes that do not come naturally to women. Also,
the mayor stated that politics is not a home and it is a brutal man’s game. A
woman cannot cook soup with one hand and solve problems of national importance
with the other (Kul’tura, 2001).After many events, they
created a channel for gender politics, and women’s issues could be discussed
freely, to deliberate the status of women, and the urgent need to liquidate all
forms of discriminations. Although the problems were addressed openly, there
was, no mention of men sharing in domestic duties. The men were not entirely
following the idea that women and men should be treated equally. They offered
gifts and floral bouquet just merely to pretend that they care about women’s
opinions and their role in the society. Apart from that, Yulia Tymoshenko, she
was an aggressive female politician, the heroine of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution
in 2004, twice-deposed Premier, and reinstated for the third time. She is a
hard-hitting reformer, who during her first term, forced two corrupt
politicians from office. Politics might be dirty, brutal man’s game, but that
day she demonstrated how brilliantly a woman could play the same hand. She is a
female in public life capable of stepping out of the essentialist role that
society assigned to women without asking for concessions or yielding to male
opponents. She had a significant role and often labeled as Marianne of the
Orange revolution, and she assumed a leadership role of almost mythical
proportions in sight of the symbolic ‘mother of the nation.’ Berehynia was a
statue that located atop a high pillar in Independence Square (Maidan
Nezalezhnosti). High above her head, this Berehynia holds a branch of the
snowberry which, according to folk wisdom, is the repository of human sols
betokening generational continuity. Thus, there were some apparent similarities
between Yulia Tymoshenko and Berehynia.

Ukrainian culture revealed a real sight of how the men and women were handled
differently. Women were portrayed as either as a sex object or as naïve
housewives. They are thus, revealed in roles which trivialize or narrowly
define them in ways that men do not experience. During the first session on
violence and trafficking of women, men managed to escape and leave the woman to
wrestle with the issues of discrimination. Change is happening but,
discrimination continues and the fact that men are giving gifts to the woman as
an award for their role in the environment is still a miserable way to keep
them silent.

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