The challenge of Ukrainian refugees

Ukrainian Lana Lisetska (Sabine Colpart) in the living room with her son at a shelter in Nisporeni, near Chisinau, Moldova, February 6, 2023

Ukrainian Lana Lisetska (Sabine Colpart) in the living room with her son at a shelter in Nisporeni, near Chisinau, Moldova, February 6, 2023

Lana Lisitska has forgiven herself for “saving herself”, Elena Baviko no longer feels alone: ​​these Ukrainian refugees in Moldova tell how they overcame their crisis after benefiting from a vital mental health program Found.

More than a year after the start of the war, she at first succeeded in ignoring her suffering, working remotely as head of hotel reservations, supported by psychologists from the NGO Médecins du Monde (MDM). does not start

“The first few months, that’s called survivor’s syndrome. You know you’re safe here, but you have a feeling of guilt in your heart, that you betrayed your country, your parents”, she tells AFP. There is Lisitska, who never gives up her heart-shaped pendant in the colors of Ukraine.

The 32-year-old woman fled her husband and relatives with her seven-year-old son to Nisporeni, about 75 km from the capital Chisinau, and joined one of Moldova’s official accommodation centres.

For the first few months, Lana remembers breaking down at the hairdresser. “There are people in Mariupol, Bucha who don’t even have enough to eat,” she realized at the time.

But “the worst thing is you learn to live with it,” she says.

– 86% women –

A country bordering Ukraine and under threat from Russia, Moldova and its 2.6 million residents have welcomed more than 100,000 refugees since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

A candidate for the European Union, this former Soviet republic has been supported by around forty NGOs to deal with this influx.

Among them, Doctors of the World has prioritized mental health and has already supported nearly a thousand people in the tiny state.

“This is an essential area in any humanitarian intervention. Symptoms do not always appear in the first days of a crisis, but over time and in different ways”, underlines American Liz Devine, the organization’s general coordinator.

According to experts, 86 percent of the refugees present in Moldova are women and minors.

She explains, “This is an incredibly high proportion compared to other situations. Husbands, brothers, sons stayed in Ukraine to fight or participate in the Ukrainian response to the conflict.”

That’s why the feeling of loneliness is stronger. In 23-year-old Elena Baviko’s tiny apartment, pictures of her family from Ukraine fill the space.

These memories allow him to “feel like home”, while reminding him of the ultimate goal: to return to Ukraine.

He believes that if he is better today then the credit goes to the psychological support he has received.

– art therapy –

The young woman says, “I discovered a whole new method with group sessions, where we were able to cry and talk through our problems together.”

“When you hear someone else’s story, you understand that you are not alone in living and surviving these events, it becomes easier”, she expresses who is now on the run to help her compatriots. Comes., Worked for NGO.

They also appreciate the use of art therapy, as do Larisa Demsenko, a lawyer in Odessa who lives with her 20-year-old daughter in the Moldovan capital, where she found a job with the children.

“We painted with visualization, we created our goals, our dreams. Our mission is to use these techniques while returning for those who remained in Ukraine and suffered more misfortune.”

Many imagined the exodus would be brief in Moldova, but the conflict continues. Citing “an exhausting impossibility to project oneself”, the MDM notes “a great fatigue” and “an endemic state of tension” among the most vulnerable.

The organization also cares for those who help refugees – a program it launched in Lebanon two years ago.

“It’s hard when you see what Ukrainian refugees are going through, especially since it’s so close,” said Nadia Pascaru Botanaru, 41, project manager for the People in Need association.

“And even more so, when you are also under threat of Russian aggression”. “You tell yourself you can be next.”


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