RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrates the courage of Tetiana Sokolova, a courageous midwife from the city of Mariupol, in Eastern Ukraine,
Ahead of the 16th anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on Friday 7th October, RAW in WAR honours Tetiana Sokolova and Svetlana Gannushkina with the 2022 Anna Politkovskaya Award for their bravery in speaking out, and in defying injustice, violence and war crimes in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
On announcing the winners of the 2022 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Belarusian writer and Nobel Prize laureate, Svetlana Alexievich, 2018 Anna Politkovskaya Award winner and a member of the 2022 Award Nominations Committee, said:
“We all thought that what Anya Politkovskaya did was already history, it was over. No one would ever need to make that kind of sacrifice again. But now we are living at a time when everything that Politkovskaya wrote about is once again part of our lives. And again, there are wonderful women who have the courage to stand up to it. We have chosen just two of them today – Svetlana Gannushkina and Tetiana Sokolova. Svetlana Gannushkina is someone who has dedicated her whole life to saving people. Recently, on her 80th birthday, she stood in the square once again to say, ‘No to the war in Ukraine and yes to freedom in Russia’. She was arrested, but not charged with a criminal offence, as is now the custom in Russia, probably only because even the current Putin regime is ashamed of putting our conscience behind bars.
Our second heroine is Tetiana Sokolova. Working in the basement of a wrecked maternity hospital in Mariupol, she did not abandon her post and under the never-ending shelling delivered babies to women who came on their own, or who were found among the rubble and brought to her from across the bombed-out city. Thanks to her efforts, 27 babies were born in that basement.
Today we thank Svetlana and Tetiana, we tell them of our admiration. We honour the courage and fearlessness of these women who chose the path of good, the path of light, who set an example. By honouring them, we honour all those who are defending life today.”
For two months, between 24 February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, and 20 April, Tetiana Sokolova supported women giving birth under the constant shelling and bombardments of Mariupol Maternity Hospital No. 2 and the whole city of Mariupol. She worked in the hospital basement, under dangerous and extremely dire conditions, helping to deliver 27 babies and saving the lives of many mothers and children. Despite the bombardments, she and her three women doctor colleagues, decided to remain and carry on their work in the hospital, even performing caesareans with the help just of the light from mobile phones. She later described how cold the basement was, how unsuitable for women giving birth, with a lack of electricity, equipment, medication or even basics such as baby formula.
She eventually fled Mariupol in a windowless old car, because of the deteriorating and life-threatening health of her husband, in search of a specialized medical help for his poor heart condition. They ended up in Lviv in Western Ukraine, where they found refuge. In Lviv, Tetiana is continuing her work, this time with a charity, Future For Children Foundation, to support the children of Mariupol.
On accepting the award, Tetiana Sokolova said:
“I am very grateful for being given the Anna Politkovskaya Award. I feel very honoured and moved. This courageous journalist and writer, with a keen sense of justice, opposed war and terror throughout her work. She wanted to protect the world from evil, and she gave her remarkable life for it.
I want very much to tell the whole world how, in the basement of the ruined maternity hospital in Mariupol, 27 babies were born, under bombardment, shelling, Grad rocket blasts, thanks to the courage and steadfastness of their mothers. I want to mention our small medical team of 4 women who remained true to themselves, who stayed there in the basement to help women in childbirth so that good could triumph over evil, so that new life could spring up amidst death and destruction.
Our work may not be on the same scale as Anna Politkovskaya’s struggle, but I really want to believe that these 27 new-borns will grow into journalists and writers, radiant and courageous people, bringing light and goodness to this world, in which so much evil still exists.
I am lucky to have survived and to be able to tell people about this war, urging them to love and not to kill.”
The war in Ukraine would have certainly had its own terrifying meaning for Anna, if she were alive today. Anna Politkovskaya was half-Russian and half-Ukrainian herself. On the Ukrainian side, she and her sister, Elena, descended from the family of the famous Ukrainian ruler and national hero of the struggle for Ukrainian independence from Poland and Russia in the 18th century, Ivan Mazepa. If Anna were alive today, Russia’s invasion and the war in Ukraine, would have been especially painful for her personally. But no doubt, she would have probably been there – reporting from the rubble of Mariupol, under the shelling and bombardments, about the plight of the civilians, or standing up on Red Square in Moscow to demand an end to the war and the release of all prisoners of conscience in Russia.
Tetiana Sokolova was born in 1958 in Brest, in the then Belarusian Republic of the Soviet Union. When she was three years old, her mother moved with her and her older brother to Mariupol, in Eastern Ukraine, then also part of the Soviet Union. Tetiana finished medical school in Mariupol with excellence but decided not to continue her studies to become a medical doctor and instead became a midwife when she was 19. She had worked in this profession, and at the same Maternity Hospital No 2 for more than 40 years when, on 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Tetiana Sokolova remained in Mariupol until 20 April 2022 to support mothers and children in the Maternity Hospital No.2 and helped deliver 27 babies in a basement under constant bombardment. She is currently living in Lviv in Western Ukraine, where she is working with a charity, Future For Children Foundation, to support the children of Mariupol.