How Displaced Children In Ukraine Overcome Psychological Trauma
26 April, 2015

Slava came to Kharkiv together with his grandmother, Tetiana Mykolaivna, when the shelling in their hometown of Avdiivka intensified. He is still finding it difficult to forget about his experiences. He describes everything in the minutest detail: How rockets hit his school and how all the factories where his grandmother worked were bombed out.

“The board at school which we always write on was hit by shrapnel…When the situation got that dangerous we would hide in the basement or the corridor,” said Slava .

Slava’s grandmother is worried about the fact that her grandson talks about the war constantly. She is scared that the psychological effects of war might have a negative impact on his future. Together with Slava she came to the humanitarian assistance point called Kharkiv Station. Located at the city’s station, the assistance center has its own psychologist on staff to help both children and adults who have been displaced.

“Children adapt well. For them the normal way to overcome traumatic events is to replay them: to talk about them, play with them. If Slava is treated properly he will quickly stop talking about it,” explained psychologist Kateryna Shutaliova.

However, according to her, because adults find it very difficult to overcome their experiences of war they often force children not to talk about it. This is a bigger threat to a child’s future and can lead to problems such as nightmares, anger and even, bed wetting. This is precisely why, according to the specialists, that it is important to give children the opportunity to express themselves. The more they express their feelings, the quicker they recover from the stress.

As at the 23 March 2015 the UN estimated that there are 1,178,000 IDPs in Ukraine. For several months a team of Hromadske traveled around Ukraine, from Sloviansk to Lviv, in search of stories of those who were left without their homes because of the war and the annexation. This the third story of part 1 of the Displaced series, a project about the lives of internally displaced persons in Ukraine from the Donbas region and Crimea.

// Hromadske with the support of the Thomson Foundation. Filmed in February, 2015.