Women’s Partisan Movement “Zla Mavka”

Zla Mavka is an all-female Ukrainian non-violent resistance movement that emerged in the occupied city of Melitopol in early 2023. After Moscow’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 three brave Ukrainian women decided that they had had enough of living under occupation.

It was time to resist.

The group is named Mavka after the female spirit from Ukrainian folk mythology. Mavka lives in the forest and entices and lures young men into the woods, and then “tickles” them to death.

She is the embodiment of female Ukrainian power and strength.

This figure of Ukrainian folklore symbolizes the anger and defiance of Ukrainian women against Russia’s unprovoked invasion of their country and the war crimes the Russian army is committing every day there.

The Russian army is carrying out a genocide in Ukraine. Every day it tortures and rapes and kills. The system Moscow wants to bring to occupied Ukraine is based upon fear and oppression – and it believes that women are second class citizens, who belong in the home.

Mavka stands as a living symbol of defiance to all of this. Dedicated to Ukraine, dedicated to resistance, and, perhaps above all, to bearing witness.

Zla Mavka operates both online and on-the-ground in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine. Its activists risk their lives to spread resistance posters, leaflets and other materials around the occupied towns and cities. Its activists benefit from the ingrained misogyny of occupation forces who never suspect that women can play such an active role in resistance.

The group logo is of three women. At the centre stands Mavka, in traditional Ukrainian dress surrounded by two female friends – one brandishing a rolling pin and the other dressed in stereotypical ideas of feminine clothes. It subverts what is often seen as traditional “feminine” imagery and turns them into forms of female power.

In Mavka’s resistance campaign “I don’t want flowers, want my Ukraine” Mavka is seen striking a Russian soldier with a bouquet of flowers. Rejecting his advances and turning flowers, that ultimate image of femininity, into a weapon of attack, and a symbol of Ukrainian defiance.

Mavka runs its operations through a Telegram channel with a chatbot that allows its activists to open “cabinets” through which they interact with the group’s leaders, who task them with resistance activities. At all times, identities are kept anonymous on both sides, vital for conducting activities inside the occupied territories with the risk of Russian arrest everpresent.

Mavka is getting under the skin of the occupiers. Russian Telegram channels and accounts are enraged by its activities. They vow to hunt Mavka down and end them. But they cannot.

Mavka is here to stay until final victory: the expulsion of Russian forces from their country.

Slava Ukraini!