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Smoke free signals from Ukraine

Inna speaking about threats of passive smoking on the World No Tobacco Day. Photo by Iryna Amyelina

Behind the Black Sea is Muslim Turkey, to the west is Catholic Europe and to the east is Orthodox Russia. At this historical crossroads, a young woman with an open face, long hair, modern glasses, a six-month pregnant belly, and gentle smile is standing on the beach of her native town Yevpatoria, a city located on the edge of the Crimea Peninsula in the south of the multicultural country called Ukraine. One thousand years ago ancient Greeks, Romans, Genoese, Mongols and Tatars left their footprints on this land.

These people brought their traditions and these traditions were not always healthy. For example, tobacco smoking. In Ukraine 50% of men are active smokers and 50% of secondhand smoke deaths occur among women.

Inna Miroshnychenko understood she was one who could change the situation and help women protect their right to a healthy environment. This is how she became the Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the “Smoke Free Crimea” Coalition, one of the most important regional programs on public health initiated by an NGO. Today the Coalition unites such prestigious organizations as the Ministry of Health, the Republican Oncology Center, and the Children's Clinical Hospital. But before this she had to go through the long road of disappointments and rebirth.

After Inna earned a diploma of a specialist on economics, she became involved with her mother in a new municipal environmental project. “My mother always was the best example of creativeness and leadership. Until now she inspires me with her energy and original approaches even to her daily duties,” shares Inna. The project aimed at improving the environment of her native city and was the first work place for Inna. She had to negotiate with local authorities. It was her first big challenge because almost all of them were “respectable” men who refused to see a colleague in a young lady.
In Ukraine the image of a woman is full of old clichés. It is a wife, a keeper of hearth, a nurse, a cook. A woman must determine her place and prove that she is an equal member of society.

Step by step, word by word Inna insisted on her vision and proposals. By offering persuasive ideas, finally she was accepted and heard.

However, the real conflict appeared unexpectedly, with her business partner. He was much older and stubbornly refused to accept strategies offered by Inna because she was a woman and young. He blocked her proposals. Sad and disappointed, Inna left the project. She worked in business and civil services but couldn’t get rid of her wish to bring positive shifts to the community.

If you are born as a leader you cannot avoid your destiny. She could not just watch what was happening, she wanted to participate and make changes. As a member of an environmental NGO, she wrote a proposal and received financial support for the tobacco control project in Crimea.

Her usual day begins with checking mail and clipping news on public health, tobacco control, and civil initiatives. She brings her daughter to the kindergarten and moves to the meeting with local authorities. Often she participates in talk shows and press conferences. She meets with her team to discuss plans for monitoring, street action, media releases, and budget planning.

Her team in the Organizing Committee consists of ten women. Inna says that women are more active in their rights’ protection. “We tell them that they have rights and give them tools to protect these rights. This is not only the right for smoke free air for you and your child. This is a common mechanism for protection of any human right. Ukrainian women should remember that they have equal rights with men. We were born not to serve men but to create alliance and bring harmony to this world,” Inna says.

Members of the Coalition hold many street actions, but every time they appeal to the same message: “Protect your rights! Don’t be silent! Legislation defends us, but the real protection begins when we don’t allow violations happen every day around us. Protect yourself and people around you. Speak and you will be heard!”

When you want to change the world in the beginning it seems impossible. Four years ago, when Inna started her tobacco control project, Ukraine took fourth place in the world for the percentage of smokers by assessment of the World Health Organization. In 2013, Ukraine was recognized as one of the leaders of tobacco control, moving from the shameful 4th place to 29th place in the percentage of smokers (from 37% to 21.8%).

“It’s a big honor to understand you are a part of these changes which save people’s lives. But I could not succeed alone. This victory is only because of the amazing team we have. Here, in Crimea, and all over Ukraine. This is the secret why so many people support us,” Inna shares.

One year ago, she was selected to participate in the annual Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Leadership Program in Global Tobacco Control (Baltimore, USA). The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, one of the most famous fighters against tobacco, shook Inna’s hand and congratulated her high results of tobacco control in Ukraine.

Learning is a nonstop process, Inna believes: “Education helps to improve the quality of thinking.” Public education is a significant part in her work. “Smoking is not a tradition. It’s a smelling killer that takes 110,000 lives of Ukrainians annually. For us it was a big challenge, and after so many frustrations I can see situation changes. People more actively protect their rights now.”

Feeling the breeze on her face, Inna notices that the air is fresh and free of tobacco smoke and that the warm sand is clean. She takes the hand of her daughter, embraces her husband, and they walk into the sunset. Tomorrow will be another day and another battle. But today she deserves a minute to enjoy the results of her efforts.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Tobacco control leaders from different countries on the meeting with the Mayor of New York City. PHoto courtesy of Inna Miroshnychenko
Inna after the meeting in the Washington office of PAHO. Photo courtesy of Inna Miroshnychenko
Inna in the street action to support smoke free children playgrounds. Photo by Iryna Amyelina
Inna in the Washington office of TFK. Photo courtesy of Inna Miroshnychenko
Inna receiving certificate from JHSPH. PHoto courtesy of Inna Miroshnychenko



Nadz's picture

Good job

I love your writing it is clear and your storyline is quite evident. Congratulations on a well written first assignment. Also I love your use of pictures.

Life is just for living

Iryna's picture

Thank you, Nadeen! I agree

Thank you, Nadeen! I agree with you, pictures are important to make your characters come alive.

Greetings from Ukraine,

If you are born as a leader you cannot avoid your destiny. How strong is that? you cannot deny your destiny but assume it. I agree! age, economic status or gender should never stop from being who you want to be.
great interview!!! i was wondering who you were going to interview and I am so glad with your choice.

Klaudia González

Iryna's picture

Leaders of the world

At some moment in our lives we come to understanding who we are and what we can do the best. I think it's very important to do what your hearts is telling to you.
Thank you for your comments, Klaudia!

Saludos hasta la ciudad de los palacios,

Aminah's picture

I enjoyed reading it again :)

"It was her first big challenge because almost all of them were “respectable” men who refused to see a colleague in a young lady."

That's quite an interesting use of quotes about those men :)
I guess men need to wake up and understand that use women is not any less in our intellectual capability.

A great story.


Iryna's picture

Intellect and gender

Agree with you, Aminah, the level of intellectual development does not depend on gender, but on the breadth of views on the world!
Maybe a woman physically weaker than men but we are strong enough from inside to support each other!

Wishing you a beautiful beginning of the week,

Mukut's picture

Brilliant job


My beautiful sister ! I am so proud of you. Brilliant is what your piece is. I loved the way how you described the geographical location in the beginning that molded a picture of both Inna and Ukraine.

Keep it up !!

Love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

Iryna's picture

Amazing team

Thank you, Mukut, for your touching words! You are inspiring as always. We are making an amazing team here, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Lots of hugs from Ukraine to India,

Precious M's picture

I love that title!

Iryna, I was so drawn to the title, "Smoke free signals from India." It is quite captivating.
Your article came out well. Good job!


My pen speaks

Iryna's picture

Tobacco free future

Well, in India smoking is the same big problem. But they also take strong measures to prevent negative influence of tobacco on people :)
Thank you for your warm comment,

Nechesa's picture

I FINALLY read it.

I've been meaning to read this article ever since you posted it but was too panicked about my own article. Now I'm able to sit back and enjoy this story. I love it.

What an interesting topic too that many don't think about but it's so important. Many people die just from second-hand smoke!

You wrapped it up beautifully at the end. It felt so satisfying. I loved how you opened it too.

Great job, girlfriend. It's wonderful.


Iryna's picture

"Mortal combat"

I remember how you were fighting with the words to get the right number, Nechesa! And understand you. But I see you've done it perfectly!
About second hand smoking I agree, so many people suffer from it and even die. I've read that in Latvia smoking near kids equal to violance. And obviously it is.
I want people begin to see that cigarettes bring only deseases and painful deaths and we need to get rid of this mortal addiction.

Thank you for your touching comments,
Warmest greetings,

Greengirl's picture


Your title as well as the opening and closing paragraphs are captivating. Very much so, you just told an illuminating story about the much overlooked issue of passive smoking. Inna has chosen a noble cause that will save lives and also help protect our ecosystem. It is just so interesting to see a woman at the forefront of it all.

Inna's passionate cause for change speak volumes..

I just love everything about the piece!


Iryna's picture

Longlasting impact

Greengirl, did you know that cigarette butts is one of the biggest letter in the water? Also there is a myth that cigarette filters are biodegradable. In fact, they are not. Smokers don't realize what a longlasting ''impact' they make on environment.

Thank you for your comments,
Greetings from the Black Sea,

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Oh, Iryna!

Dear Iryna,

What a wonderful job you've done on this piece! I love reading about Inna, seeing pictures of her and once again being amazed at the tenacity of a strong woman facing hurdles and finding ways to leap over them!

This particular issue, tobacco and all the harm it causes - not only to us and our air, but to our waters, as you said to Dear Greengirl -- stands out as being slightly different from other issues women are committed to, which makes it all the more eye-opening. Hurrah for Inna! Hurrah for you!

Thank you -- and your Terrific Triad -- for this excellent article.

With Gladness,


Iryna's picture

The right for clean air

Thank you, Sarah, for your beautiful and touching comments! Yes, you are right, some problems are not visible from the first sight, but it doesn't make them less important. We used to live not noticing this silent abuse which women and children receive from smokers. Because most of smokers are men and most of those who suffer are women and children. We used to think this is just a little uncomfort, but the reality is that tobacco smoke is killing you, doesn't matter of the source. Even if you don't smoke you can be damaged. Our responsibility now, when we finally understand this, is to protect our right for smoke free air and protect our children offering to them tobacco free future!

Wishing you a beautiful day full of nice emotions and clean air,
Warmest greetings,

Ayunnie's picture

Inna's Initiative

As i read Inna's Initiative on fighting tobacco use...i kept thinking of my country-Kenya. Drug and alcohol abuse has become a national disaster that is threatening to disfigure families. Thank you for bringing Inna out at the right time

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Iryna's picture

Living free

Ayunnie, thank you for your support! I want our children don't know what is addiction, drug, alcohol or tobacco one.

Warmest greetings,

Deqa's picture

Good job

I second Ayunnie's statement. As I was reading your piece I was also thinking about the smoking and khat that ruined generations of boys and men in my country. She is fighting for a good cause and I wish her success.
Awesome writing Iryna. Well done.

Iryna's picture

Uniting our forces

Thank you, Deqa, for your supportive words! I will say them to Inna when I will have a chance.
In this fight we need to unite our forces and make cigarettes go to the past!

Warmest greetings,

Hi Iryna,

Your story of what one woman can do when she knows what she wants to do was powerful. You have shown what is possible when a person discovers her passion and takes action. You captured Inna and her family so beautifully and showed the steps she took to improve the environment and people's health. Not only does she deserve to breathe in the clean air, so do you, for writing a story that shows what a woman with a mission can accomplish. Very nicely done. Take a deep breath and reflect on your accomplishment in writing this profile.


Iryna's picture

The sources of inspiration

Thank you, Sally, for your words and for your help in this writing! I am ready for my next steps, and as you said, accomplishments like being satisfied with the results of your work are important because they are the biggest inspiration for the next achievements.

Warmest greetings,

libudsuroy's picture

Dear Iryna, Thank you so much

Dear Iryna,
Thank you so much for writing this story about an anti-smoking activist who succeeds where many have failed. Thank you so much for detailing for readers the open secrets of her successful leadership and activism.
It takes more than sheer courage to take up the anti-smoking cause as you must deal with behavioral change from different levels of society. In time, indeed, your story signals us that sooner or later, our world will be smoke-free. I am assured that the world Inna envisions for Ukraine will come true.
Great work! Congratulations!

libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Iryna's picture

The road to success

The main secret, and Inna repeated it several times during the interview, was in a good team work. She said, it's impossible to be a professional in all fields, but if you have a team of passionate professionals then you can reach incredible results. And it's about any issue.
I like that here, in WP, we have an amazing team of women who support each other. It's important on the road to success!

Warmest greetings from Ukraine to Philippines,

Karoline's picture

Such an uplifting story!

What a great story, Iryna - you've written it in such a compelling way - and the message, that we can all take matters into our own hands to try to solve problems facing our societies, is such an uplifting one!

Iryna's picture

For the smoke free future!

Thank you, Karoline, for your uplifiting comment! Such people as Inna inspire always, after talking with them you feel like infected with the virus of action which makes you stronger figter for your rights. And I like it!

Greetings from Ukraine,

Dear Iryna,

Thank you for profiling a women who has everybody's health in mind. I smoked for over 10 years. I am from France and it seems that when I was growing up, French society had not yet figured out the dangerous effects of cigarettes on children. My father smoked in the house and so did his friends and family members when they came to visit. Even though my parents told me not to "ever" pick up the habit, I started smoking to imitate my friends who did when I was 14 or 15 years old. When I started smoking is when the French government decided to crack down on cigarette smoking. Every year they increased the price of cigarette by .50 or 1 euro. They also started including statements such as "Smoking Kills" on cigarette packs. Still I found the money and smoked until I was 26 or 27 years old.

As Inna knows tobacco causes a lot of health risks and it should be the right of all of us to live in a smoke free environment. Your piece was very compelling because you were able to show the struggles and resistance Inna faced in her early activism and build up to her successes including statistics and high accomplishments such as traveling to NYC and meeting the mayor.
I am a curious person and would love to hear more about Inna's convictions and why she decided to take up this particular fight. I would also love to know of concrete campaigns she led or actions her and her organization took to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking in the Ukraine. (only if you have time!)
Thanks for this great piece.

Delphine Criscenzo

Iryna's picture

Living free

Thank you, Delphine, for your attention to the post. I remember when I was a child every month we went to visit my grandparents who lived in the village. Because we didn't have a car my mother asked our family's friends to help us. The man of this couple was awful smoker, and during the road I remember until now how bad I felt, wanted to vomit, could not breath, etc. And my mother all the time felt uncomfortable to ask him not to smoke, because he made a favor offering a drive.
Now this man has only one lung, but his son smokes. I think life not always teach people. That's sad.
But I am glad to see how in general people's attitude to smoking changes. It's obvious that smoking is not a natural thing. There is nothing natural in swallowing smoke. All "cool aura" was brought by agressive advertising. I think that with time we need just to ban cigarettes. We should get rid of this awful thing which take so many lives.

And now I understand I should write another post about this issue. Promise to do it, Delphine!

Warmest greetings,

Debra Engle's picture



I loved this article! The geographic perspective at the beginning was so helpful and descriptive, and I thought the way you moved into the subject—talking about healthy and unhealthy traditions—was brilliant. You painted an excellent picture of Inna and her work. The statistics about the change from fourth place to 29th in percentage of smokers is impressive. And I loved the personal way you ended the article...showing Inna and her family enjoying the clean air. Beautiful! You really brought a critical topic to life. Thank you for such an inspiring profile.

Iryna's picture


Debra, thank you so much for your inspiring comment! I think when you are writing about something important for you too, you always put a part of your soul into the text.

Greetings from Ukraine,

Debra Engle's picture


I agree, and that definitely came across in this article. I'm looking forward to reading your future assignments!

Maura Bogue's picture

Good Job!

Wow! How interesting! Your lead is well-written and draws the reader in. You did a great job at painting a clear picture for the reader.

Next time, try using more quotes, as they add to the authenticity and humanity of the story.

Overall, really great work!


Iryna's picture

Thank you for your beautiful

Thank you for your beautiful words, Maura! For me your suggestions are important because it helps me to improve my writing skills.

Warmest greetings,

Y's picture

I love the quote, "If you are

I love the quote, "If you are born as a leader you cannot avoid your destiny." Your writing is helping to acknowledge and encourage those who are born to lead. Keep up the good work.


Iryna's picture

Completely agree with you, Y.

Completely agree with you, Y. Being a leader is a big responsibility, and sometimes we can feel tired and desperate. But later you understand that there is something you cannot live without. And you "rechange" and continue to go and lead people. And that's great!

Thank you for your comments, Y!
Greetings from Ukraine,

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