Conflicts & War

Psychologists help Bucha residents overcome horrors of war

By Luis Lidón

Bucha, Ukraine, Jun 16 (EFE).- The beauty of Bucha’s landscape, peppered with chestnut, maple and willow trees, starkly contrasts with the fresh scars of Russia’s bloody occupation of the city, whose residents are trying to overcome the trauma of war with the help of psychologists.

Forensic experts continue to unearth mass graves in Bucha, where Russian troops carried out a massacre in the early stages of Moscow’s invasion.

This week, seven more bodies with their hands bound were exhumed near the city.

Bucha has become synonymous with the horrors of war and, while municipal officials repair the physical destruction caused by tanks and shelling, psychologists offer residents support to process the atrocities many have witnessed and been subjected to.


Many survivors suffer from insomnia, nightmares, irritability, fear, anxiety, insecurity and feelings of guilt after surviving the Russian siege.

Natalia Zaretska, 47, is one of four psychologists who has been working with locals since April.

“I help them understand what has happened to them and what they have been through,” the military psychologist tells Efe.

Patients slowly identify and work through their feelings by talking honestly about their experiences in therapy sessions.

Around 7,000 people witnessed Russia’s occupation of Bucha. What they experienced was so intense and violent that it changed their lives forever, according to Zaretska.

“One common feeling among patients is a distancing from Russia. Before they saw Russians as neighbors, as similar people to them,” she explains.

But the war has etched a vast distance between the two nations.


In another corner of the city, Unicef ​​and a local NGO have launched an igloo-shaped tent where children can get psychological care.

Viktoria Nechyporenko, 29, says around 50 children visit the tent to play daily and that around 40% of them receive specialist care at the request of their parents.

“Some children have sleep problems. Others have stopped talking. I also know the case of a ten-year-old boy whose hair turned half gray from the stress of the explosions,” Nechyporenko says.

But these are not the worst cases. Children who were raped and those caught up in the violence of Russia’s occupation require specialist treatment and protection.

Despite all the help they are getting, Nechyporenko says that the trauma children are dealing with will not disappear as long as the war continues.


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