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Story Publication logo June 15, 2022

On the Road to Recovery: Healing the Hearts of Ukrainians During Wartime (Chinese)

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The team explores the road to recovery for war-crime survivors fleeing Russian-occupied areas.

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A striking wall of flowers in downtown Lviv commemorates the dead soldiers and civilians. Image by YingYu (Alicia) Chen. Ukraine, 2022.

This report was originally posted in Chinese on TheInitium.com. To read that report in full, click here.

From new recruits to wounded veterans, grappling with survivor’s guilt, and a young girl to an old lady — both ripped away from their homes — Ukrainians we spoke with refrain from showing vulnerability amid the ongoing war.

The recent Russian invasion has caused countless Ukrainians to struggle in dealing with the trauma of war. Our story, drawn from one week of reporting on the ground, explores these struggles from an aspect of mental health. We look at how the Lviv community and government have adjusted to new psychological demands through a wide range of support. These structures include expanding psychological services in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, testing military recruits’ mental resilience, and providing collective therapy through art, yoga, and stand-up comedy.

Oleh Berezyuk, a 52-year-old psychiatrist working with Lviv’s major hospitals — where evacuated civilians and soldiers receive treatment — says 99% of his patients have sleep problems, and some of them even exhibit symptoms of PTSD. Andriy Sadoyvi, Lviv’s mayor, admits the lack of mental health support during the 2014 war for the Donbass, resulting in the suicide of many soldiers.

In order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past, Ukraine is trying to save as many traumatised hearts as possible.


Young recruits practice group ambushes and sieges with their guns on the live firing range at Our Lady of the Peaks training camp. Image by Jeremy Chan. Ukraine, 2022.

Viper identification training at Our Lady of the Peaks training camp. Image by Mihir Melwani. Ukraine, 2022.

Valryria, 25, is practicing minesweeping at the Our Lady of the Peaks training camp, having studied history at university and decided to train with her friends after the outbreak of war. Image by Mihir Melwani. Ukraine, 2022.

Our Lady of the Peaks training camp trains recruits in an abandoned building. Image by Mihir Melwani. Ukraine, 2022.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoyvi said in an interview in his office at the city council building that the 2014 war in the east led to the suicide of many veterans, and he hopes it will not be repeated. Image by Jeremy Chan. Ukraine, 2022.

Dmytro, a 45-year-old soldier, was attacked by Russian tanks in a village in Kharkov province on April 8. One member of his squad was killed, and another survived. Dmytro was evacuated to a military hospital in Lviv for treatment. Image by Jeremy Chan. Ukraine, 2022.

A 75-year-old grandmother, Tatyana, is interviewed in Lviv's municipal hospital. She was kicked and beaten by Russian troops during an evacuation in May. Image by Mihir Melwani. Ukraine, 2022.

From her hospital bed in Lviv, 75-year-old grandmother Tatyana, a former journalist and writer, writes a little poetry every day. Here are a few lines: "The alarm is wailing like a wild beast, rockets are flying — whistles, dust, smoke. The gates of hell are open. The dead lie in the streets, the enemy won't allow them to be buried, the torn bodies, the blood — a clip from a horror movie, but even so, after all this the bullets are still flying in the air. Image by Mihir Melwani. Ukraine, 2022.

Anastasia, 15, was evacuated to Lviv for treatment of injuries sustained during a rescue mission in her hometown of Popasna in the east. Shortly after she escaped, the town was occupied by Russian troops. Image by Jeremy Chan. Ukraine, 2022.

Residents from Lviv, Kiev, Kharkiv, and the eastern part of Ukraine take yoga classes in a yoga studio in the southwest of Lviv city. Image by YingYu (Alicia) Chen. Ukraine, 2022.

On May 25, 2022, comedian Taras pokes fun at the new daily routine of war in a restaurant in the old city of Lviv, as the audience from all over Ukraine keeps laughing, drowning out the first air raid siren outside. Image by Jeremy Chan. Ukraine, 2022.

People select books at a second-hand bookstore in downtown Lviv. Image by YingYu (Alicia) Chen. Ukraine, 2022.

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