Ukraine: Meet a mother who fought the Russian army with small acts of resistance
Kherson, Ukraine — A petite mother of three wearing a gray Pokémon hat, Liliia Aleksandrova may not look like the stereotype of a partisan, but she could not stand by while Russia stole her city.
Aleksandrova lives in an apartment block on a wide boulevard in Kherson. During the occupation, military vehicles roared past her widow and Russian soldiers drank at a bar on the corner.
Before long, propaganda billboards went up at the intersection. Moscow was trying to Russify the Ukrainian city and absorb it, and Aleksandrova didn’t like it.
Ukraine: After losing Kherson, Russia tries to destroy it
Part of the Sun breaks free and forms a strange vortex, baffling scientists
Someone needed to strike back, but what could she do? After watching Russian troops suppress a protest at Kherson’s central square, she heard about a group called Yellow Ribbon and reached out.
With their guidance, she began venturing out at night to brand the neighborhood, painting the horizontal blue and yellow bars of Ukraine’s flag on the street outside her apartment.
It was her small act of resistance.
She said she did it both to give hope to Ukrainians waiting for the occupation to end and to remind the Russians that they didn’t belong and should go home, she said.
When the Russians found her work, they would paint over it but her point had been made: Kherson was Ukraine.
Kherson was the only regional capital captured by Moscow during its 2022 invasion, and residents were quick to resist, organizing a protest in the central square on March 4.
The city defied the Russians’ attempts to impose their currency and language on Kherson. Russian soldiers were assassinated. So was Pavel Slobodchikov, an aide to alleged collaborationist politician Volodymyr Saldo, whom Moscow had put in charge of the occupation government.
A pro-Russia blogger, Valery Kuleshov, was shot dead in his car. Partisans smuggled weapons and spied on Russian troops for Ukrainian intelligence and military authorities.
And some painted the streets.
Two months after the city was liberated on Nov. 11, Aleksandrova walked her neighborhood, pointing to her handiwork: a traffic sign tagged with yellow and blue paint, the bus stop across the street where she painted a yellow ribbon.
“Yellow is the colour of freedom, and this ribbon united us, people who were against Russism,” Aleksandrova said, referring to Putin’s Russian expansionist ideology.
When she worked, her hands and legs would shake, and her heart beat faster, she said. Once, she had to hide from a police car. In the days under occupation, even getting caught with yellow paint could mean arrest.
But she knew she was doing the right thing and believed God would protect her. “The Russians are inhuman, they kill us,” she said. “They just shouldn’t be here.”
Eventually, she took the next step, collecting information on the Russian army. She took photos and sent their coordinates to contacts in the Yellow Ribbon protest movement, she said.
Too old for army, Ukrainian partisan stole weapons from Russians
Exclusive: Widow’s 911 call before James Smith Cree Nation murders reveals prior violence
The coordinator of the campaign, who asked to be identified only as Alex, met Global News in Odesa. An IT worker before the war, he wore a black hoodie, sweatpants and hat.
To resist, activists leafleted, demonstrated, burned Russian newspapers, tore down Russian flags, defaced billboards and collected information on troop movements, he said.
“It’s non-violent resistance,” he said.
In Kherson and Russian-occupied Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk, activists have pressured the Russians, sometimes just by painting a ribbon. “It’s very simple for activists to do a yellow ribbon and run.”
They work at night to avoid capture, use safe houses and change their clothing. But some still get arrested, he said. “We don’t know for sure where they are. We have a lot of people who were caught.”
“It’s not easy, but it’s our mission,” he said.