Supporting Ukrainian War Veterans and Their Families: A Workshop Recap

In a bid to address the unique and complicated challenges faced by Ukrainian war veterans and their families currently residing in Czechia, two sessions of two-day workshops "How to Support Ukrainian War Veterans and Their Relatives" were held in Prague, Czechia. These workshops aimed to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of working with war veterans and their families, focusing on individual, family, community, and societal levels. Participants delved into the intricacies of the challenges faced by such individuals and explored effective strategies to support them at various levels. Mental health specialists working with war-affected individuals in Ukraine face distinct challenges compared to those working with refugees from Ukraine who are forced to move outside their country. IOM Czechia is dedicated to providing specialized support to Ukrainian war veterans and their families through professional services.

The event unfolded in two phases. The first phase was intended for Ukrainian mental health specialists who are currently staying in Czechia and was held on November 31 and December 1, 2023. “One of the goals of the workshop is to increase knowledge of the specifics of working with military culture, supporting veterans' families, dealing with complicated and uncomplicated grief and family counselling in the context of forced separation. Also, it is planned that the participants will continue communication after the seminar and provide each other with intervention support with the possibility of supervision support from the seminar facilitator”, mentioned the workshop facilitator Kristina Obluchynska-Shabazova, clinical psychologist, and national consultant at IOM Ukraine in the project Resilience Pathway.

“We understand the importance of treating our beneficiaries carefully and with specific knowledge of such area”, says Olga Sydoruk, Psychologist, IOM Czechia. “People whom we provide psychological support in Czechia are Ukrainian refugees, some of them were under occupation in Ukraine, some lost their closest ones in the war conflict, and others suffer from being distant from their family and home country. During such training, we meet in a professional circle to share our experience with colleagues and learn new approaches and methodology in therapy.”

The second phase was focused on Czech mental health professionals who already work with Ukrainian war veterans and their families or those who are interested in being involved. The workshop was held on January 11-12, 2024, and was led by Joshua Kreimeyer, a renowned expert in the field of veterans' mental health. As he aptly expressed during the workshop: "Supporting Ukrainian war veterans and their families requires not just knowledge, but a compassionate understanding of their unique challenges. By fostering open communication, embracing self-assessment methodologies, and acknowledging the complexities of grief, we empower ourselves to make a lasting impact at individual, familial, and societal levels."

Workshop attendees had the opportunity to learn and apply the methodology of self-assessment. This valuable tool enables both professionals and community members to evaluate their understanding and approaches when dealing with the needs of war veterans and their families. This introspective method helps in refining support services and tailoring them to the specific needs of each individual.

Overall, these workshops played an important role in enhancing communication and support strategies for Ukrainian war veterans and their families, and how to address their unique challenges at individual, family, community, and societal levels through practical, interactive learning. This initiative not only bolstered attendees' capabilities but also fostered a community committed to positively impacting the lives of Ukrainian war veterans and their relatives, marking a significant step towards a more supportive environment for these families in Czechia.

Denys Semchonok, Protection Assistant (War Veterans) at IOM Czechia, reflected on the success of the initiative, stating, "While designing the workshops, we have considered requests from potential participants – we wanted to create a platform for sharing ideas and concepts, special techniques which are proven to be applicable in working with Ukrainian war veterans and supporting their families. We are confident we have achieved our goal."

Looking ahead, the potential for continued work in the format of family retreats for Ukrainian war veterans' families was discussed as a positive psychosocial intervention, proving effective in restoring communication and providing tools for conflict resolution and stress regulation in spouses.

We are grateful for the cooperation and support in organizing this event to Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, Deputy Minister for European Affairs, Commissioner for Human Rights, Štěpán Vymětal, psychologist at the Department for Security Policy, Ministry of the Interior, and IOM Ukraine.

This project has been supported by the United States Government.


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