How do veterans of the Donbas conflict return to a normal life?

The conflict in the Donbas has never truly ended. And while the attritional trench war continues, Ukraine is facing the fundamental question of how to socially reintegrate the hundreds of thousands of veterans of this conflict? The theme was already examined in the ancient Greek poem Nostoi, which tells the story of the fighters returning home after the destruction of Troy. Of course, once upon a time the Soviet tradition saw vodka as the way to get through problems of post-traumatic stress, but today? How is it possible to prevent survivors falling into a dramatic spiral of alcohol, drugs and violence? What are the best physical and mental strategies to foster a gradual return to normality?

Ukraine has had to start from scratch but the best responses to this emergency have not come from the government. A number of NGOs specialized in this field are particularly active, such as the association Probatimi and its innovative “bodynamic” technique or Warrior’s Heart that focuses on somatic problems in order to provide more holistic support. But dealing with trauma also involves a resumption of daily life: there are veterans who perform in concerts, others who are involved in competitive sports events and others who help former comrades and share their experiences in schools. As with the case of the Greek heroes, not all pathways are the same but reintegration into society is a process that requires one essential ingredient: time.

( 2019 )