As we come to the end of women’s history month, it’s important to remember those young women who aren’t mentioned as often in our society. One particular example is Zinaida Portnova. Portnova was born into the Soviet Union in 1926. Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 wasn’t for a few more years but Portnova’s grudge against the Nazis snowballed into outright hatred over time. Her family wasn’t wealthy; rather, they struggled to make ends meet like most of the people under Soviet rule. When the German army came to Portnova’s hometown in Russia, they took a large amount of their food supply. She witnessed the German’s cruel treatment of her people and was determined to fight back.
During the time of the Nazi regime, several resistance groups began to form all over Europe. One particular group was unique in that it consisted mostly of youth. The group called themselves the “Young Avengers.” Wanting to do her part in the war effort, 15 year old Portnova joined the Young Avengers. During her time with the resistance, she took part in all sorts of illicit activity. From committing acts of espionage to destroying a number of German buildings, Portnova earned her stripes as a resistance member and made strides for women everywhere by proving that females were capable of doing more than looking pretty. Portnova killed roughly 100 German soldiers during her tenure with the Young Avengers. She was killed on January 15, 1944. However, her memory was not forgotten. Portnova has been acknowledged with several different titles of prestige since her passing.
Portnova’s story contains all sorts of valuable lessons. She is an inspiration to young girls and women everywhere. She proved that we are capable of doing anything we set our minds to, despite society’s expectations of what girls ought to do with their lives. She was able to defy gender norms almost one hundred years ago. Though we’ve made some progress towards equality, our society still has a long way to go. Sexism is still prevalant in every country, and will be for a while. It’s our responsibility, not only to girls like Portnova, but to ourselves that we continue to push past sexism and continue to follow our dreams in the hopes that we too may inspire young girls in the future.
Not only is Zinaida a feminist icon, but also a model for teenagers everywhere. Sometimes, we feel doubted by older generations. We’re told that we can’t accomplish anything of importance because we are too young. Naturally, some teens doubt themselves and hold themselves back because they’ve come to believe in all the negativity perpetuated by adults. However, it’s simply not true. Zinaida is just one out of thousands of other teenagers who’ve contributed greatly to all sorts of different world issues. We owe it to them to stand up and do our part in solving global dilemmas that continue to plague our world. Don’t allow yourself to be your worst enemy when so many other people are willing to fill that role for you. Everyone is capable of effecting change in the world; you just have to take the first step.
Featured Image via Pixabay