The most famous women of Ukraine

Clever and strong-willed. Outstanding Ukrainian women who changed the history.

Woman-ruler, woman-astronomer, female warrior — in different periods of history of Ukraine women demonstrated strength, character and intelligence. Each of them influenced the history of the state in her own way.

In this article, we will tell you about the talented and strong-willed women in the history of Ukraine. Each of their stories deserves respect and admiration.

Princess Olga of Kiev

This woman became the owner of the Kievan Rus after the death of her husband — Igor. As evidenced by historical data, Olga was strict, even cruel, but reasonable ruler.

Well-known story of how Olga avenged the Drevlyans for the murder of her husband Igor. It is known that the Drevlyans sent their ambassadors several times to Kiev to marry the princess with their prince Mala. The princess eloquently made it clear that she did not want this. Olga drowned the first ambassador in the boat and burned the second in the bath. The third part of her revenge was her campaign against the Drevlyans: the Kiev guards first killed several thousand Drevlyans. Further, they besieged the town of Iskorosten and completely burned it.

Another legend, which speaks of the mind and cunning of the Princess, is Olga’s acceptance of Christianity. When she arrived in Constantinople, the emperor noticed her beauty, so he decided to marry her. However, this was not part of the princess’s plans. She said that she would marry the emperor, but only after she accepts Christianity. She also mentioned that she wants the emperor to be her godfather. After the ceremony, when the emperor again reminded about marriage, she replied: “Can a daughter marry her father?”.


Another Ukrainian, who ruled a large empire, was Nastya Lisovskaya (Roksolana). Historical sources prove that she was not only a beautiful woman, but also a very clever ruler, skilled diplomat and politician.

In the harem of the Sultan, she began to learn Turkish and read the Koran. After the first night spent with Suleiman, she refused any jewelry, and asked for one thing only — access to the library. Later, it helped her to charm Suleiman — he could not only spend the night with her, but also discuss important political processes.

For 200 years of the Ottoman Empire, a simple concubine for the first time became the wife of the Sultan. Roksolana became a serious political player in Turkey. She accepted ambassadors, and the sultan consulted her on important state affairs.

Galchka Gulevichevna

Galchka Gulevichevna lived in Podol at the beginning of the 17th century. The wife of a wealthy nobleman, she actively supported Orthodoxy in Ukraine. At that time, the Greek Catholic religion was actively introduced in the country.

To counter this, a fraternity was created in Kiev, to which Galchka donated the plot of land belonging to her — in order that Orthodox church and school could be built there. This is how Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, one of the oldest in Europe appeared thanks to one simple woman. Although famous educational institution is named in honor of Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, Galchka Gulevichevna is not forgotten here.

Sophia Okunevskaya

This Ukrainian woman became the first female doctor in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At that time, women could not be doctors — they simply could not get degree in university. Okunevskaya, so to speak, cheated and went to study in Switzerland.

However, after returning from training, she was never able to get practice, because both in Lviv and in Krakow they refused to recognize her diploma. She found work only in Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic), where together with her husband they opened a private practice.

However, later the University of Krakow did recognize her diploma, that’s why Okunevskaya returned to Lviv. She also became the first doctor in Lviv, who used radiation therapy in the fight against oncology.

Okunevskaya also established a school of obstetricians and gynecologists and opened the first in Western Ukraine courses for sisters of mercy. For sympathy for someone else’s pain, patients called her “Saint Sophia.”

Varvara Khanenko

Varvara Tereshchenko was the daughter of a rich sugar maker. After marrying the lawyer Khanenko, they both shared a passion for collecting art objects. In their Kiev mansion on Tereshchenkovskaya Street, they collected a whole collection of unique works of both masters of the East and the West. When, in 1917, Khanenko died, Varvara Khanenko made every effort to realize their common dream — the creation of public art museum in Kiev. Even during the Civil War, she did not let them plunder and take out the collection they had collected. Eventually, Varvara handed over the collected art to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; however, as it often happened those years, she did not receive any gratitude from the Soviet authorities: Varvara Khanenko was not allowed to work in the museum, no financial support was given, and she died in poverty. For a long time, there was not even a worthy monument on the grave of the spouses. Now the situation has changed a little. Posthumously, the Museum of Arts was given the name of its real founders: Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko.

Olga Kobylianska

She was one of the first feminists in Ukraine. The well-known Ukrainian writer finished only four grades of school. However, she always dreamed about higher education. At that time, it was impossible for women. Therefore, she began to study independently: she borrowed books from her brothers, listened to their conversations and participated in discussions. During this period, Kobylianska began to take interest in women’s rights and the problem of emancipation.

Olga Kobylianska is getting more actively involved in the women’s movement in Bukovina, in particular, she joins the “Society of Russian Women in Bukovina”. Later, she founded another women’s society called “Circle of Ukrainian girls”.

Participants of these movements raised the issue of the plight of middle-class women and advocated the equality of women and men.

Among my peers and acquaintances, whom I had much, there was not one that I could fully open my soul with all its secrets. Their ideal was a man and marriage; for them, it was all over at that point. I wanted more. I wanted good education and science, and wide arena of activities, — Kobylianska wrote in her autobiography.

She wrote her feminist ideas in her works. Many of her main heroes are images of educated young girl (“Man”, “Princess”, “Waltz Melancholic”, etc.).

Elena Kazimirchak-Polonskaya

Ukrainian astronomer, scientist, whose theory is still used when launching space probes into space.

She studied at Lviv University, but then moved to Warsaw, where she studied the movement of comets.

In 1941, during the occupation of Lviv, the astronomer, at the risk of her own life, saved the Polish officers. She made them certificates of interns from the Lviv Observatory so that they could leave the city.

The main works of Kazimirchak-Polonskaya are dedicated to the study of the motion of comets, in particular, the evolution of their orbits. For this work, she received many distinctions and awards, in particular, the highest astronomical award — Bredikhin’s award. In 1978, the small planet №2006 (2006 Polonskaya) was named in honor of Kazimirchak-Polonskaya.

At the age of 85, a scholar who had always believed in God became a nun. However, she did not leave science, and until the end of her life, she continued to teach.

Olga Ilkiv

She was communication agent for Roman Shukhevych, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

Olga Ilkiv studied at the Lviv Medical Institute. Later she became the head of the women’s network of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in Lviv.

Once Volodzio (pseudo “Whirlwind” — Olga’s husband) gave me a piece of paper with Stepan Bandera’s articles … I read it and understood that I should go to the nationalists, — Ilkiv herself told.

She worked under the pseudonyms “Roksolana” and “St. John’s Wort”. Ilkiv created several safe houses for Roman Shukhevych. In 1950, almost before his death, Shukhevych ordered Olga Ilkiv to go to the Donbass and there to create division of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. However, on the day when she was supposed to leave for Donbass, she was arrested in Lviv by the Soviet special services. She spent 14 years in Soviet prisons.

In 2008, by the Decree of the President of Ukraine, Olga Ilkiv was awarded the Order of Princess Olga of the third degree.

Natalka Horunzha

A military doctor who saved our fighters in the ATO, even at the cost of her own life. She died on February 2, 2017, during the fighting in the Svetlodarskaya arc (Donetsk region).

Horunzha left for the front in August 2016. She voluntarily asked for position of combat medic because she felt that her help was needed there. She was inspecting the wounded on the spot, providing them with first aid. As the soldiers recall, she was both a “mother” for them and a psychologist.

The doctor died in the accident — direct hit of the projectile into medical vehicle Horunzha was traveling with the wounded soldiers.

A brave woman had a husband and daughter.

“When they were informed that she was dead, the guys did not hold back tears; some of them cried for the first time during the war. Everybody was crying, both healthy and those she spent a lot of time with when they were injured,” wrote volunteer Jan Osoka.
All these Ukrainians prove that Ukrainian women can be not only beautiful, but also outstanding human beings, brave fighters, entrepreneurs.

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