KYIV, UKRAINE — Tuesday is International Women's Day, an important official holiday in Russia and Ukraine dating from the Soviet era.
According to The Washington Post, the annual holiday was proposed by Theresa Malkiel, a Russian immigrant who arrived in New York in 1891. A strong supporter of the women's suffrage movement, equal rights and fair labor practices, she proposed the first National Women's Day in 1909.
Malkiel's labor activism inspired many worldwide, and her annual event began to spread. Eight years later, according to The Post, International Women's Day events in Russia snowballed into a strike that ended Czar Nicholas II's reign and helped usher in the Soviet Union.
According to The Post, International Women's Day was a national holiday in the Soviet Union and in East Germany. Each year, women are normally feted with flowers and chocolates and speeches. But this year, the holiday has been overshadowed in Ukraine by war and in Russia by economic chaos.
Sugary messages of love and support were shared on social networks as in previous years, but many were tinged with sorrow or pleas for peace.
"Ukrainians, we usually celebrate this holiday, the holiday of spring. We congratulate our women, our daughters, wives, mothers. Usually. But not today," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his morning video address on Tuesday. "Today, I cannot say the traditional words. I just can't congratulate you. I can't, when there are so many deaths. When there is so much grief, when there is so much suffering. When the war continues."