'I Have A Real Medicine Woman As My Great Grandma And Her Story Inspires Me To Never Give Up!'
Being 41 years of age, I have done quite a few journeys in my life, but the most challenging, unexpected, and rewarding one was the path of self-discovery. Sooner or later, every girl has to decide what it actually means to be a WOMAN: Is it something that limits you and places a barrier on the way to success? Or being a woman means being able to stand up for yourself and do what is right, to aspire for more and discover the treasures and talents hidden within you?
I bet you watched the famous TV series Dr. Quinne, Medicine Woman. I did, and I highly admired Michaela for being so brave and so unwilling to give up on her dream, considering the epoch she lived in. Being a woman and a doctor? What a stupid notion! Ridiculous! When I was a teen, I loved such stories, but they seemed so bookish and far away from reality.
It runs in the family
You know, they say, “It runs in the family.” Well, I barely knew my family story and never suspected the bookish and even historical events could be taking place right in my family line. During the teen years, I was a very timid girl - shy and rather unsociable. In our community, women had to be good housekeepers, wives, and mothers. Feminist ideas were not widely spread around the past Soviet Union territory back in the 80-90ss.
And yet, growing up, I felt I had bigger dreams and aspirations but did not find much support for being more or doing more. Being a mother is sweet, but being a happy and fulfilled one, pursuing her dreams, is so much better. That was my idea of life, but I thought I had no one to follow in her footprints. Unexpectedly, I discovered that support in the family history and in one female ancestor in particular. It’s my great grandma Eugenia; when I was born, she was 83, and I have no memories of her.
Every generation thinks they live in tough times and dream of the lost opportunities of the past, unavailable to them. I thought so too until I realized what it really took for women to be successful and independent back at the end of the 19th century. Eugenia was born in 1889. My grandpa (her son) was born in 1911. She was just 22! She grew up in the family of chief inspector of Kiev (Ukraine), City Council Fedor Beletz.
She had 3 more siblings: 2 sisters and a brother. She got married young, which was a common thing back in those times. They seem to be a happy family on this photograph. Her husband (my great grandfather) was a composer and a writer, as well as college teacher.
She was a young mother of her son Dmitry, who was also to become a college teacher in Kiev.
Wasn’t that enough?! She came from a wealthy family, had a great marriage and a lovely son, so why strive for more? Why not to be content with what you have? Well, you know that feeling when you discover something on the inside of you, something that tells you life is over, unless you follow your dream; unless, you let out what is hidden inside and allow yourself to venture out of your home and dare to become somebody, somebody you were meant to be? I know that feeling only too well - the sense of discontent that has no visible and logical reasons. Well, she had that too, and she did not kill that discontent and dream in her soul.
Fist Medicine Women in Kiev
It’s a rare photo of the first female doctors who just got their diplomas from the Kiev St. Volodimir University! My great grandma Eugenia is one of them, and her sister is another one.
Here she is!
It’s a 1916 photo. She is 27 and when I look at that face, especially at her lips, I see the determination, will, and stubbornness! By this time, she has gone through a lot. Her marriage fell apart and she was left alone with her young son. She was about to face the radical change of 1917 Revolution and off of its drastic consequences.
Still, she did it! She has become one of those very first 28 Medicine women of Kiev and Ukraine as a whole! She got her diploma.
When I look back at her life, I have a hard time seeing her old and feeble. I see a young, strong, and ambitious woman, one of thousands who decided to make tough choices in life in order to stand up for their rights to be anybody they dare to be.
Thanks to them, now we have the freedom to get education, to enter any profession we choose, and to be free. Thanks to them, the definition of being a woman shifted from the just being a housekeeper or a wife, to being an engineer, politician, or even an astronaut.
They changed the tides of history for us to have that privilege and opportunity to be who we want to be in life. And she did not sacrifice her family or her child to her career. Her son Dmitry became a teacher of Kiev Polytechnical University (one of the top colleges in the country).
One of her grandsons, Anatoly, has become a famous violinist, and my father was an engineer. I do have all that in the family. The history of achievements, of dreams, and of never giving up! I have the treasure of pursuit on the inside of me, and I have those footprints I can follow in good or bad times.
They have survived Revolution, WWII, occupation, Soviet Union. Eugenia survived, no, she overcame prejudice of her epoch and fulfilled her dream of helping others as a doctor! This means I, WE can aspire even higher! We have the foundation laid for us by the examples of fearless people who fought a good battle.