Established in 2007 by the US State Department, the award honours women ”who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in order to bring about positive change to their communities, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.”
In Zalewska’s profile, the State Department says she “has selflessly documented Russian aggression in Ukraine since 2014 and advocated for the people of Ukraine for more than a decade.”
It adds that Zalewska "persevered through life-threatening injuries suffered when her press car came under fire from Russian proxy forces in Luhansk Oblast in 2014. She persists in the face of disinformation campaigns and online threats personally aimed at her and her family and the risks of violence and injury during her frequent work inside Ukraine."
The State Department also writes about Zalewska’s efforts aimed at “compiling the stories of refugees and documenting evidence of war crimes to send to Polish authorities,” adding that “in the face of ever-present threats, Mrs. Zalewska remains unintimidated and continues to welcome refugees from Ukraine, bring to light Russian atrocities, report truthfully and responsibly from the frontlines, and personally deliver aid inside Ukraine."
'Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to act in spite of it'
Zalewska’s motto, as quoted by the State Department on its website, is that “courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to act in spite of it.”
The other recipients of the 2023 International Women of Courage Awards come from Afghanistan, Argentina, the Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Women and Girl Protestors in Iran received the Madeleine Albright Honorary Group Award.
The awards ceremony was held at the US State Department on Wednesday, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and First Lady Jill Biden handing out the awards.