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What does someone who manages airport construction or is in charge of air flight security look like? Who do you picture at the pilot wheel of a Boeing aircraft? Who can train over a hundred firefighters? If your imagination depicts a man, it has fooled you. The characters in our story are 13 women who have broken all clichés about professions being divided into “female” and “male”. They all have connected their lives with aviation and love their jobs. Each one of them shows that high professional standards is what matters most in work. It is important to listen to yourself and to discard any prejudices about the division of professions into “this one is for women, and that one is for men only”. Clichés restrict, while aviation opens opportunities for everyone, regardless of their sex.

The United Nations Population Fund and Boryspil International Airport have prepared a special project #MyCareerChoice, dedicated to the International Women’s Day.


Antonina Petrychenko

Head of the Capital Construction Service at Boryspil International Airport

As a kid, I dreamed of becoming a flight attendant. But my height was an obstacle. As early as at 12, I stood at 176 centimetres. Same age, I declared my plans regarding aviation to my relatives. They did not share my enthusiasm: “What are you talking about? You’ll be brushing the ceiling on the plane with your head!” In the Soviet times, the tallest that flight attendants could be was 170 centimetres. So I had to change my dream. The next one was construction. My relatives were not particularly thrilled either: "Engineer in a skirt? It just can’t be!" At that time, it was men who dealt with those things. But I took my decision and did as I wanted.

First, I graduated from a construction technical school, then a university. I worked in restoration, in health facilities construction too. After that, life brought me back to my childhood dream – aviation. First, as Deputy Chief of Capital Construction. Now I head that Service. There are 30 persons in our team and behind them, many contractors for our 33 sites. Dealing with so many people is not always easy. But it's extremely interesting because together we create something new. I like to develop all the time, to learn, to work with new people and in new areas. I do not like monotony and it is definitely absent here. This is not a conveyor belt. Each site is a new location, a new story, a new life. After all, new people and opportunities. I love to start something from scratch and have it completed. It's wonderful to see the first passengers entering a new facility. True, when everything is ready, it makes me very happy. And inspires me to continue creating.


Maryna Fastovets

Head of Department for Corruption Prevention and Detection Boryspil International Airport

Way back in my childhood I decided that I would be a police officer. I remember our alumni meetings, when we were reading notes with our childhood wishes. Mine had exactly that: “I want to be a police officer”. That dream has led me all my life. Even when I quite forgot about that note. I went on to study at the Academy of Internal Affairs. My parents supported my choice. They seemed to think, however, that my dream will be gone while I study. But it did not, it just got stronger instead. As a result, I became an investigator. And a senior investigator later.

In 2016, I learned about the development of a new project at Boryspil Airport for passengers who lost some of their luggage. I decided to offer my ideas about how to organise work in that department. Out of all ideas, mine were preferred I was offered the job. That was how I headed the detective department at the airport, or, as we are also called, became a security manager. I launched a phone line right away, as well as announcements for passengers about where they should come to if they lose their belongings. Today I am in charge of two divisions – detectives and anti-corruption.

There have always been many men on my teams. We have no contradictions, just to the contrary – we perfectly get along and understand each other.

The airport brings together congenial souls. We all love movement. Others do not stay here very long. Only those stay who, rather than feeling at a loss, are able to get their act together and find a solution. And be responsible for it. We work directly with passengers. In fact, the lion's share of our work is communicating with people. People on the road who may open their suitcase and see that something is missing. Or the entire luggage is missing. Of course, they are worried or angry. We need to reassure them and explain that their problem is our problem too. We will solve it. For me, a good day at work is six or seven meetings, interviews, considerations of theft. And making sure that all this brings results.

I love movement out of work too, so I try to travel and meet friends on weekends. My 12-year-old son says that I do the right thing and he really wants to be like me. I don't know if he is saying the truth or exaggerating a little, but his words give me a huge charge of energy.


Svitlana Burda

Lieutenant, press attaché of the Separate Checkpoint Kyiv

I was a Daddy's daughter. I used to follow him everywhere. He worked in law enforcement and wanted to have one of his daughters wear shoulder straps some day. My Dad is gone now but his dream stayed with me. My Mom, however, had other plans: she wanted to see me and my sister as teachers. We obeyed and went to study philology. But I still wanted to make my Dad's dream come true. After I had completed the fifth year of studies, I gave my mom my diploma and said: “You wanted me to become a teacher – there you are. And now I'm going to do service". Of course, it came totally out of the blue for her. She tried to talk me out of it the best was she could. She said that’s not a woman's job, that I will never have a strong family with that job. But she knew that, being the way I am, I will still do what I must do, no matter what they say.

I started as soldier and for seven years grew up to the rank of a lieutenant. I chose Border Guard for myself. I worked everywhere, at checkpoints at the Western border, in the administration, in the Anti-Terrorist Operation too, as the Chief of Press Service of the Donetsk Border Guard Squad. That’s where I met my future husband. He is also a border guard, a combat officer, a colonel. Now we are raising a young son. It is good that he and I are in the same domain. That’s how he understands when I have to leave very early or come back home late. In our family, we don’t have it when something is done only by the husband, and something else, by the wife only. We both do everything as may be needed. At work, no one divides responsibilities either. "You're a woman so you won’t cope " - this is definitely not about our service. We are doing the same things that men do.

It has been long since I realized that office work is definitely not for me. I can't sit in four walls, I need to move all the time. I have always preferred taking risks and the adrenaline rush. It's more fun to live that way. I serve at various airports now. They are huge flows of people and an ocean of situations that need to be addressed very quickly. I love my job because it is live communication that nothing can replace.

Svitlana Zamikhora

Head of Shift, Access Control Unit of the Aviation Security Service, Boryspil International Airport

I grew up in Boryspil. Who of the children living in Boryspil did not dream of being in aviation? Planes always lured use. I remember how we used to go to the airport as kids - to have some ice cream and take a closer look at them. We were in the seventh heaven with joy.

I did not become a flight attendant as I had dreamed in my childhood, but a teacher of English. I worked at school, and after I had a child, I did not want to come back to teaching. Then I remembered my childhood wish - to be closer to the planes. So I went to study again and became an operator inspector at the passenger department. That is one of those people who check your cabin bags and luggage before the flight. But we do not do the checking in silence, we also communicate. That is why I immediately fell in love with that job. And that was when my English came in handy.

I've been with the airport for 13 years now. I ended up at my current head position when several departments were created here. First, I was a senior supervisor at the checkpoint. At that time, it was a rarity when a woman was in charge of inspecting vehicles and machinery. But I was trusted and I managed. I often replaced the department head. And in a while, I headed the department myself. There are now half a hundred people under my leadership.

Every morning, I wake up with a smile because I love going to work.

It means constant live communication both with colleagues and with total strangers. True, conflict situations do occur. But I always try to put myself in the passenger’s shoes. For example, how would I feel if I were all in a rush, running late, and had to undergo another inspection of my belongings? I would probably be annoyed too. Therefore, the client must be reassured, not annoyed even more. My work enables me to help people and learn new things all the time. Resourceful passengers all the time come up with new ways to carry prohibited items. So it is necessary to keep your finger on the pulse all the time. Overall, the airport is a life that bubbles and brings new emotions every day. We never stand still. And this is an incentive to go to work with pleasure every day.


Lyudmyla Honcharenko

Boiler operator of the Main Electric Engineering Service, Boryspil International Airport

People get surprised when they see me, a woman, in a boiler room. I can only smile at this: "Well, you do what you learn to do". I have worked there for 17 years. After that long, you can find your way around blindfolded. But by first diploma, I am an elementary school teacher. I managed to graduate one class, then I had my own children and decided that I must change professions. I had to go to work in the country, but I wanted to be closer to my children who had just started school. My sister, who worked as an operator of the Boryspil district heating system, suggested that I also learn that. That’s how I got into the heat supply system.

They say that the operator job is for men. But we in the heat supply system thought differently, because we had more female operators than male ones. When a boiler house was built at the airport, we, operators of the Boryspil district heating system, were invited to go there. They offered much better conditions, so I gladly accepted the offer. I've actually been here since the first day the boiler went operational. People in our team have been working for dozens of years. They have grown up children and even grandchildren. We share everything and know each other well. Like a family where you feel fine and nice. Even when we do not meet because we work on different shifts, we call each other, get together to sit down and chat.

True, I am a teacher by vocation, but I ended up in a totally different area. But I do not regret my choice. I am light on my feet. If I didn't like something here, I would be out long ago. I didn’t even think about going back to school. Being an operator is more secure than a teacher. I have grandchildren and I see, I know what it is like. In my shift, I am alone – pure peace and quiet. At home, there’s noise and commotion, and horseplay with the kids. So in the boiler room, my mind has a rest. My daughter says all the time: "Mom, you go to work like to a holiday". I laugh in response, "It truly is, my dear child".


Svitlana Mayboroda

Canine handler of the Dog Support Unit of the Aviation Security Service , Boryspil International Airport

I was given three days to think. I worked in the veterinary service, and sometimes consulted dog handlers. And then all of a sudden, I had this proposal to become a dog handler myself. I did take the three days to think, I said “yes” on the same evening. I had no idea what was waiting for me and how everything would work out. All I knew was that I loved the risk and wanted to try something new. It has always been like that - I make unpredictable decisions. And it's been ten years now that I am a dog handler at the airport.

Our work is a constant risk. Every time you go to work your shift, you don't know how it will turn out, how the shift will go.

But for myself, I made a recipe against anxiety: waking up with the positive mindset and being prepared for unexpected things. It is necessary both for me and my dog, because she feels my mood right away. If something is wrong, she will simply lose her guard. When the owner is calm, then the dog is calm and does her job. The dog adjusts to you, and you to – to her. In this job, you work as one. Likewise, when you are upset and tense, she feels it. You're nervous – she's nervous too. You can’t let it happen.

There are quite a few calls over the shift but I try to give my dog some time to rest. Although, she may look tired at times, but when there’s a new task, the tiredness vanishes in no time. She totally changes in front of you. Our job, however dangerous it may be, is like a fun detective game. The main thing for me is to get her interested so she wants to play this game. When we both are in contact, it is a lot of pleasure.


Olga Gatsenko

Aircraft Washer — driver of the Aircraft Ground Handling Unit, Boryspil International Airport

I grew up among boys. We were a kind of a kid gang – 7 or 8 boys and I. Together we would climb trees, play football and hockey; we had a lot of common interests. That’s how I never divided profession into "female" or "male". I studied to be a fitter and welder and ventilation technician. It was my cousin and her female friend who talked me into that: we are going to study there, why not come with us? I agreed. It turned out that out of 300 people, there were only five of us girls. But, same as in my childhood gang, that team was comfortable, fun and interesting too. The boys supported us in everything. I smile every time I think of those days.

After that, I worked at the Ozone plant for a while. I went to work at the airport 25 years ago thanks to my mother-in-law, an ex-flight attendant. They just opened a new service at that time, and they needed people to clean up planes after the flights, so that new passengers entered clean and neat cabin. We had drivers who brought us to the planes. And in 2003, the management asked if we would like to drive the vehicles ourselves. I was glad and immediately agreed. My relatives were sceptical: "You are so small, just 155 centimetres, how do you expect to drive around at the airport? Aren't you scared?" I shook my head to say that I was not, and went to study.

This is my life and my choice. If I come with an idea and I want it, no one can talk me out.

I liked machinery since my childhood. All the things I drove and rode! Bike, go-cart, moped, motorcycle, scooter, car. I love the road. And now I have all that at work every day.


Tetyana Kryuchkova

Inspector dog handler of the Dog Support Unit of the Aviation Security Service, Boryspil International Airport

I was born into a family of medical professionals and no one had any questions about what I was supposed to be. I got a medical degree and went to work in that profession. But I felt, it’s not where I belong. I just did not feel like practicing, and that’s it. So I started looking for something to do that would inspire me, give me energy. That’s how dog handling came into my life. I watched the world championship for dogs and I was simply overwhelmed with that beautiful sight. I wanted to try it myself. I found a dog for sports training, a training ground – and one thing led to another. Traveling to contests, waking up at four in the morning to pick up the trail with the dog, seminars for dog handlers. This sport has made me stronger and opened new opportunities. The airport was one of them.

When I found out that the airport was hiring dog handlers, I wasted no time. It was a chance to move to a new area and continue working with dogs. True, I did not abandon sports training either. It is difficult to choose one thing over the other if you like both, and when you deal with very different dogs. In sports, a dog is the leader. It is prepared to defend, but may compete with the handler too. The airport needs totally different properties. The dog must be very balanced and ignore strangers. After all, we work right in the terminal. No time to get distracted, just do our job.

When I came to work at the airport four years ago, I was assigned an adult dog. You know, a serious one, independent and confident. In short, a formed personality. I needed to make contact, find a common language, so she could listen to me. The second one, I brought up myself. She is also interesting - very sensitive, may easily take offence. She needs an individual approach. I like that. I like it that the job means a lot of communication and a lot of new people. After work in health, dog handling has become a different world for me, that has a lot of movement and a lot of communication. Actually, that's why I work at the airport. My hobby has grown into a job.


Lilia Surmach

Traffic controller of the UkrSATSE

I grew up in Kropyvnytsky. The city has a flight academy and a pedagogical university. When I was choosing where to go to study, I could hardly picture myself as a teacher. Aviation was my interest instead. Even more so, since I spoke good English and wanted to use that knowledge. Therefore, I chose the flight academy. Interestingly, my Dad once dreamed of studying there, but it didn't work out. But for me, it did. Although he did not push me to do it, he was happy to find out that I chose that path.

The flight academy had ten times fewer girls than boys. And a shift in the control tower in those days had one woman. "Remember: you're not a woman - you're a traffic controller". Those were the words that I was greeted with at my first place of work in 2005. That phrase is forever etched in my memory. Really, what's the difference whether you are a man or a woman? What matters is how well you do your job. It requires concentration and full presence. There are many processes going on at the same moment and you have to keep them under control. I become a different person when I work. And the fact that I immediately see the result of my work brings me great pleasure.


Anna Pokusayeva

Traffic controller of the UkrSATSE

I'm a happy air traffic controller because I love what I do. And at the same time, I feel tremendous support both by family and by the team. We have no such thing as "woman, know your place". There is space to grow and develop. I did not even want to take a long maternity leave. I came back to work when my daughter turned seven months old.

I got into this area quite accidentally. If it were not for my parents, I would not have known that there is such a profession. I remember how I was filing papers at the NAU and passed by a hangar with planes. I lingered there for a while and even at that time I felt that I wanted to be in aviation. And there I am – for ten years I have been working as an air traffic controller. First, I started working at the Donetsk airport. But because of warfare, I had to relocate to Kyiv in 2014. Good that my husband supported me again. Typically, a wife here follows her husband, but in our case, it was the other way around, two times. He could have taken a different decision, but he knew how much I love the job. For people in aviation, this understanding and acceptance by their family is very important. My husband and our two daughters need to adjust to my schedule. Without their acceptance and approval, it would be more difficult. So in that regard, I am very lucky.


Maryana Yakymchuk

Traffic controller of the UkrSATSE

It is thanks to my mom that I became an air traffic controller. I didn't know what university to go to. And she was suggested to file documents for this profession. I remember being angry at first, I said I would graduate and that’s going to be it. But now, looking back, I realize that everything happened as it should have happened. Maybe it’s my destiny. As a teenager, I didn't know what to be. Like most of them, I had my head in the clouds and didn’t really understand what was happening down on the earth. And how do you weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of the area you choose? Studying often different from real work.

I was not sure that I would ever work by my profession at all. Rumours had it that it was difficult to get a job as an air traffic controller. But my story proves the opposite. After graduating from the university, I went through several stages of selection and have been here for eight years now. When I just started, it was scary. You go work your shift and somehow you feel ill at ease. You are aware that a lot depends on you, what tremendous responsibility you have. But as time goes, all fears go too. I like the air in our team and the shift work. I cannot imagine myself doing a nine-to-five job in an office.


Victoriya Ardelyan

UIA Pilot

In my family, four generations are connected with aviation. My great-grandfather went on combat missions on in his ground attack plane in World War II. My great-grandmother was an aviation technician. Grandpa, uncle, father – are all connected with the sky. I grew up in this atmosphere and dreamed of becoming a pilot myself. Meanwhile, my parents viewed me as a linguist. They insisted that I go to study to Kyiv. I obeyed and did that. And then I came home, to Kropyvnytsky, and filed my documents with the flight school. For good or for bad, I was not going to abandon my dream.

I have never had the illusion that aviation is nothing but stardust. I always knew very well that it requires great physical and mental efforts.

After all, what great responsibility being a pilot implies. But I was ready to go to the end. I completed my post-graduate studies and was awarded the degree of Candidate of Engineering. And after that, a commercial pilot certificate. I was not only trained in Ukraine but also in Lithuania and Denmark. I learned all new modern planes and my excitement about the work only grew stronger. True, it involved hours of training, exercise, simulators and a huge amount of information. My Dad's support and guidance was great help. He himself flew around the world many times. So he has a lot to share from his own experience.

It's now 3 years that I am a UIA pilot. My work does not seem very female to many. But for me, it is the best profession, reaching which took me long time and a lot of persistence. My example shows that every dream can come true. All it takes is believing in it and making the effort. Then you will succeed in everything.


Natalia Ponomarenko

Fire Safety and Rescue Engineer, Boryspil International Airport

I always sought live communication in work. My first education in accounting was not about that and I didn't like it. People are more interesting than numbers. So I went to study and then to work at the Fire Safety Academy in Cherkasy.


At the airport, I was originally a fire safety specialist. This is the person who checks things to prevent fires at the airport. A few years later I was offered to move to the position of Fire Safety and Rescue Engineer. I was a little scared at first. The department is all male there.

130 firefighters, 13 engineers – all men, except me. How will I be accepted? At first, it was not easy. Colleagues treated me with caution, and did even take me seriously. It was necessary to win authority and their respect. By the end of my probationary period, I was perceived as a highly qualified specialist, and eventually managed to establish friendly relationships.

Our main task is to keep firefighters in good shape and prepared for emergency situations. To enable someone cope with stressful situation, it is necessary to prepare that person. For that end, we organize special imitations. Then, if a real danger emerges, they will be able to solve the problem fast. In our work, team is very important. You can deal with any stress if there are people you can rely on. This is what we work on – making sure that our team is always prepared. If a fire breaks out at some airport abroad, we always look into that incident. Was there anything they miscalculated there? What mistakes did they make? It is important for us to think how we ourselves would act in such a situation. I believe in the power of the team, but every one of us must constantly improve and overcome our fears.