15 Legendary Belarusian Women That World Looks Up To

Over the years, we’ve been inspired and motivated by the achievements of these female heroes, both long-standing and those who have only recently made their mark.

We celebrate the Belarusian women who keep moving the world through epochs.

Francesca Ursula Radziwill

The first female writer and playwright on the territory of modern Belarus and Poland. Francesca spoke several European languages, knew the world literature, and wrote poetry.

At the initiative of the Princess, who was a wife of Michael Casimir Radziwill, a theatre appeared in Nesvizh – entertainment of royal level.

Talents in literature and fine arts allowed her to make Nesvizh one of the centres of cultural life in the kingdom. She personally made decisions on the management and leadership of the city.

She led the restoration of the Nesvizh castle, protected Nesvizh from raids of the Russian army, has streamlined and expanded the Library, and restored the printing house.

Valentina Tereshkova

The first woman to have flown in space on 16 June 1963. Valentina Tereshkova’s parents migrated from Belarus.

From left to right: Yuri Gagarin, Pavel Popovich, Valentina Tereshkova, and Nikita Khrushchev

As a child, Valentina spoke Belarusian. Before her recruitment as a cosmonaut, she was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur skydive.

After the flight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961, Valentina was selected out of more than 400 applicants to join the female cosmonaut corps.

Even though there were plans for further flights by women, it took 19 years until the second woman flew into space. In 2013, Tereshkova offered to go on a one-way trip to Mars if the opportunity arose.

Darya Domracheva

A renown biathlete, a many times Olympic champion who competed in the Biathlon World Cup from 2006 to 2018.

Darya won a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics, three gold medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and a bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

She was a Biathlon World Cup overall winner for the 2014–15 season. In 2014 Domracheva was given the Hero of Belarus medal.

Sofia Kovalevskaya

A pioneer for women in mathematics around the world – the first woman to obtain a doctorate in mathematics.

Besides, she was the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe and one of the first women to work for a scientific journal as an editor.

She was born in Moscow but her father was of mixed Belarusian–Polish descent and she spent childhood years in her dad’s estate in Nevelsky district, Vitebsk province.

She made noteworthy contributions to analysis, partial differential equations and mechanics. According to some historians, Kovalevskaia was “the greatest known woman scientist before the XX century”.

Olga Korbut

A former gymnast nicknamed the Sparrow from Minsk, she won four gold medals and two silver medals at the Summer Olympic Games.

Korbut’s influence and legacy in gymnastics was far-reaching. Her performances were widely credited as redefining gymnastics, and one of the most popular sports in the world.

Korbut is best known for her move, the Korbut flip, a backflip performed on the uneven parallel bars.

She was the first to perform the trick at an international competition in 1972, the move has since been made illegal in the Olympic Code of Points.

Emilia Plater 

Nicknamed a Belarusian/Lithuanian Joan of Arc, a noblewoman and revolutionary who fought in the November 1830 Uprising.

Emilia Plater leading peasant scythemen in 1831, by Jan Rosen

She cut her hair, donned a uniform and organized raised a small unit, participated in several engagements, and received the rank of captain in the insurgent forces.

Her story became widely publicized and inspired a number of works of art and literature. Her life has also been a subject to studies from a feminist perspective.

Scholars pointed out the significance of her participation in the military conflict as a female going against the stereotype that only males can fight.

Ida Rosenthal

A Belarusian-born dressmaker and businesswoman.

She was born to a Jewish family in Rakaw, near Minsk. At the age of 18, Ida emigrated to the U.S. and years after opened a dress shop and own plant.

Her business focused solely on brassieres that despite the Great Depression became a hit expanding into markets across the US, Europe and Latin America.

Maidenform was the first company to sell maternity bras, invented a standard for cup sizes and received a patent for an adjustable fastener.

Svetlana Alexievich

An investigative journalist, essayist, oral historian and Nobel Laureate. She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.

She was awarded Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.

Her most notable works in English translation include a collection of first-hand accounts from the war in Afghanistan and an oral history of the Chernobyl disaster.

Her books were not published by Belarusian state-owned publishing houses after 1993. As a result, Alexievich has been better known in the rest of world than in Belarus.

Salomée Halpir

The first female doctor from Navahrudak, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Halpir expressed decidedly un-womanly characteristics and ambitions.

What is known about her life is known from her memoirs, written in 1760, which is a unique example of travel memoir and women’s literature.

Instead of dedicating her life to raising children and being a good wife, as dictated by the 18th-century social norms, she strove to become a medical doctor and expressed her hunger for travel and adventure

Victoria Azarenka

A professional tennis player. She is a former world No. 1 in singles and was the year-end No. 1 in 2012.

Azarenka has won 20 WTA singles titles, 7 WTA doubles titles, and 3 mixed doubles titles. She is the only Belarusian player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam singles title.

In 2013, Azarenka was named the fourth-highest paid female athlete in the world by Forbes magazine, with total earnings of $15.7 million.

Vera Kharuzhaya

A communist writer, teacher, guerilla, combatant in civil law and spy.

Kharuzhaya was the leaderof the liberation movement in Western Belarus, and one of the organizers of the anti-Nazi underground in Vitebsk.

She spoke Belarusian, Russian, German, Polish and Hebrew languages. Vera was an idol of the Soviet youth during her lifetime.

She was posthumously granted the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. On that occasion, one of the streets in the centre of Minsk was been renamed in her honour.

Sophia Grojsman

A Belarus-born perfumer. She is one of the most prolific perfumers of our time.

Grojsman is a Vice President of International Flavors and Fragrances, a perfume and scent company whose annual sales exceed two billion dollars. She has created some of the most game-changing perfumes in the last 30 years.

Among them are Lancome Tresor, Yves Saint Laurent Paris, Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse, Calvin Klein Eternity, Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars and many others. Her mastery has influenced modern perfumery as we know it today.

Euphrosyne of Polotsk

Euphrosyne (or Efrosinia) of Polotsk is the granddaughter of a prince of Polotsk, Vseslav, and daughter of Prince Svyatoslav of Polotsk.

She is also a prominent educator, peace-keeper and a patron saint of Belarus. Euphrosyne refused all proposals of marriage and, without her parents’ knowledge, ran away to the convent.

There she became a nun and spent her time copying books. Euphrosyne built a number of monasteries and churches became the centers of education.

Through her efforts, a women’s monastery was built which survives to the present day. She also founded a men’s monastery and two churches.

Eliza Orzeszkowa

A novelist and a leading writer of Belarusian descent. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature along with Henryk Sienkiewicz and Leo Tolstoy.

Orzeszkowa wrote a series of 30 novels and 120 powerful sketches, dramas and novellas. She also committed herself to charity and social activities.

Stefaniya Stanyuta

An outstanding theater and movie actress, People’s Artist of the USSR and the legend of the Belarusian scene.

She was born in the time of the Russian tzars, saw the rise and fall of the Soviet Empire, and died in sovereign Belarus. More than anything, she loved the theater.

Even being 90 years old, she went on stage, her roles were different but always brilliant. Stanyuta could turn even a small episode in a true masterpiece. In total, she played about 200 roles.

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