Psychotherapy work in Ukraine


As the Russian invasion of Ukraine passed its 100th day, with little sign of an end, I interviewed Kateryna by text, a woman from eastern Ukraine who is currently volunteering to provide psychotherapy support to her countrymen and women. Her words are a reminder of the people of Ukraine, amongst whom some 14 million have been displaced and thousands killed and injured. It also reminds me of my responsibility to do what I can to try and promote peace in a war that even risks global famines and, also, nuclear escalation.

(i) You mentioned that you’re learning English to help with your next job and you had to leave your last role due to the war. Can you explain why you had to leave your job? Did the war force you to move away?

The war affected every Ukrainian without exception. The company I worked for was badly damaged, almost half of the stores destroyed by rockets and bombs. The company lost any opportunities to provide employees with jobs and pay salaries.

I became a volunteer of psychological care in 2020, when the world learned about Covid and it turned out that people are not ready mentally for social isolation. The war is a severe test for my psyche also. And I understood perfectly well how all Ukrainians suffer. At the same time, the war has united our nation like never before, we all want the same thing now. And we all are thinking in terms of categories: What can I do to be useful for our victory ?! So I decided that my knowledge, skills and experience should work for a single purpose now. And this is Save my country from the enemy!!!

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Anxiety and job-seeking in Ukraine – a diary

Oil painting by correspondent, 2021 – if you would like to support the artist’s work, contact me

In the light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, I am re-posting this piece, which is from a text conversation that I had with a Ukrainian woman that I met on a penpal website between 2019 – 2021. She spoke about her life, including anxiety issues and job-seeking. I last received a message from her some two months ago and I believe she is still living in the capital, Kyiv, which is undergoing attack as I write.

Please, if you can, urge your political representatives, in whatever way you can, from email to a public protest, that de-escalation and negotiation is needed now to stop any more bloodshed. There is no military solution to defeat Russia, due to their nuclear capability and their insistence that Ukraine is part of their sphere of strategic influence. The world has to negotiate and offer Ukrainian neutrality to Russia in exchange for troop withdrawal and return to speaking between foes. Ukrainian political alignment with Russia may not be ideal but it is far better than being destroyed and occupied.

Between December 2019 and April 2021, a Ukrainian woman in her 30s, currently living in the Kyiv area, shared with me some of her experiences of challenging her anxiety symptoms, searching for work and her efforts at painting. She told me she prefers to listen to stories than tell them but gave me permission to share some of her experiences anonymously, saying: “You can embellish the story with different romantic stories, whatever you want, but only my photo is scary to upload) it is better not).” At the start of the conversation, from which I have deleted my responses and most of her questions for me, to focus on her experience, she is living with her parents, near Kyiv, helping at her father’s small local electrical goods store and selling religious books by mail.

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Dec 18, 2019

Today is a sunny day. I argued with my father that I would find work after the new year, and he would stop drinking)). Maybe at least it will drive me out of the house.

…we bet that if I go to work my father will not drink). This is not a quarrel, but a game. Once I argued with my brother that if I go to work in Poland, he will quit smoking. I went to Poland, but he did not quit smoking 🙂

Dec 20, 2019

I have not had time to buy gifts, instead, I got drunk yesterday, could not stand it)). Because of this, the state of health is not very good. But she swore to herself that this is the last time)

no, I can drink alone). I feel good only the first half hour, and then it becomes very bad.

I also drank 2 beers). I have not bought gifts yet, I have a big family, I need a lot of gifts.

Dec 22, 2019

Yes, I’m better, I swore to myself not to drink anymore, although often I really feel like it. I choose which country I should go to work. But it will be in six months, it will take a lot of time to draw up documents) Maybe Sweden)

I will go through a paid agency. But this is not soon, a lot needs to be done for this)…this is work somewhere in the factories. It’s very difficult there, but i can earn more than in Ukraine. Since I haven’t been working for a year, I need to pay for it).

No, I’m very cowardly, but in extreme conditions it’s easier for me. When everyone is busy, all Ukrainians who go to work are in the same conditions). Although in Poland it was difficult for me, and I even had to change the city and work, right in Poland. But the second time I will behave differently, calmer.

Dec 25, 2019

Thanks! Merry Christmas to you too !!

Today I sent parcels to my customers)….We celebrate Christmas on January 7th, so it’s too early to give gifts. We have Orthodox Christmas)…. And I will celebrate 2 times)

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Volunteering & working abroad – facing anxiety and doubts: Interview

An interview with C, who I connected with on the volunteer and work exchange site, Workaway, over the past several months, as she has undertaken her travels and work roles. I was curious to know what the experience of volunteering or short-term working, for the first time, in a new country, was like and how she met the challenges she faced, including anxiety.

Nov/Dec 2021

i) How have you found the experience of volunteering in a bed and breakfast in Scotland and what are your next plans?

I feel like I managed to unblock something, as if I was stuck in Belgium (my home country) and needed to get away from everything to actually function. Having seen that I indeed am capable of working, of sustaining myself, I feel empowered and strong. I of course have all my vulnerabilities still. But I feel a bit more sure of myself and my resilience. When I realised that, my dreams emerged again: study something at uni or college and build a life for myself.

I know I am not there yet, I still have a lot of work in front of me before I can think about going to university again. But to get to dreams you need to take small concrete steps. So the first step was accepting the job offer to work as a cleaner in a nice b&b. It will be a quite well paid job and I will be able to keep working on myself, while feeling like I am on top of things financially.

Maybe, who knows, I will be accepted into college in September 2022. Or I will choose another path for myself and decide to work and not focus on academics for a while, get an apartment, and work my way away, trying to live my life. And not survive it.

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Street Photography – Observation and embracing anxiety (Interview)

Saram takes a range of photographs, including street photography, offering new perspectives on what we take for granted. In this interview article, collated from a series of interview answers, he discusses his photography approach, how it is influenced by his anxiety symptoms and life in Poland.

Saram shares his photos on Twitter, Instagram,
OpenSea and on an online print shop, saram.darkroom.tech.

Collage, Saram Maqbool

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Could you talk about your experiences of working and living in Poland, having moved from Pakistan?

I came to Poland two years ago to study for my Master’s degree in architecture. It has been a great experience overall. I find it a different experience doing street photography here simply because I walk pretty much everywhere as opposed to driving. I walked to my university and took photos on the way and back. I now walk to work and take photos on the way and back. In Pakistan, I used to do the same thing but while sitting in a car. So I would say it is definitely different and I guess easier in some ways. However, I also sometimes find myself feeling much more anxious while doing photography here because of the language barrier that exists. Other than that, it has been great exploring new places and being able to take photographs wherever I go.

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