Helping Ukraine resuming a normal life in its Liberated Territories

August 08, 2023

The Russian war of aggression has forever changed the life of every Ukrainian.

Yet, the trauma of having been invaded is particularly deep for those who have experienced living under Russian occupation, until the Armed Forces of Ukraine returned their cities and villages under Government control. Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, is one of those places in Ukraine, defined as Liberated and Adjacent Territories (LATs).

Life in the LATs has a “before and after”

Dmytro, is a Prosecutor. He lives and works in Izyum. He is one of the participants in the “Critical Stress Management” training course organised by the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) Ukraine for civil servants in the LATs, including officials working in the Rule of Law area, and officers belonging to Law Enforcement Agencies, from 1 to 3 August 2023.

Dmytro says that because of the skills gained at the training he feels he is better equipped to cope with the Russian attacks when home with his wife and his one-year-old child. In this respect, he adds, the training has not only helped him in his work, but also to better deal with critical situations in his private life. His colleague Roman stresses how much he appreciated learning about relaxation techniques and grounding exercises for maintaining an emotional balance in stressful situations. These practical aspects of the course, explains Roman are a discovery, and of great help.

The topics of the training course included “reducing stress factors and providing resources”, “self-help in stress”, “recognising symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”, “communicating with a person in a state of emotional breakdown”, “working with the trauma of losing a loved one”, and “creating new meanings after the war and working with ‘guilt’ feelings”.

Kyryl and Ihor, are among the police officers from Izyum who participated in the training activity. Kyryl’s says that the best part for him was to learn skills enabling him to support others suffering from PTSD. As he speaks these words Ihor nods in agreement. Krystyna and Kateryna, other police officers attending the training, agree on practical stress management skills learned at the training as key in the current circumstance.

The EUAM Ukraine’s training activity was delivered involving highly specialised Ukrainian psychologists from the NGO Atlantic Support Centre, a network of mobile psychological support groups moving throughout Ukraine, providing assistance to civilians, internally displaced persons and military personnel. Psychologists Andrii, Hanna and Svetlana, who delivered the training, shared with the EUAM Ukraine’s team in Izyum how working with fellow Ukrainians exposed to very difficult and complex experiences during the occupation is a defining moment in their professional and personal lives.

Referring to the trauma of the “before and after” for the people living in the LATs, Andrii states: “My role here is to help bringing back those among us who are stuck”. Svetlana agrees. Her aim, she says, is to contribute to enabling the participants to rebuild a semblance of normality in their social and professional circles. For Hanna the most rewarding takeaway is to see the participants’ smiles, and sensing feelings of relief in the room, when applying hands-on, easy to apply techniques.

Through this and other activities, EUAM Ukraine is helping the Ukrainian authorities in re-establishing some degree of normalcy in the functioning of essential state services, such as policing and Rule of Law in the LATs.

This is based on a needs assessment approach. In Izyum EUAM Ukraine personnel met local partners to understand their requirements. Discussions took place with the Police Commander, the Head of the Prosecution and the Mayor.

EUAM Ukraine’s efforts in the LATs are delivered by employing a combination of advice, training, and operational capacity building support, including with resources from across the Mission’s departments, as well as with the support of rapid deployment tools such as Visiting Experts and Specialised Teams.

The Mission is committed to supporting the people of the LATs of Ukraine striving to rebuild their lives and institutions.

Although life in the LATs will always have a ”before and after”, EUAM Ukraine’s response to the partners request for support in re-establishing the functioning of essential state services aims at helping them in moving forward for a much-needed return to normality.