“There are recurring themes in the stories told by refugees here: the farewell to family members, to the men who stayed to fight. This is frequently accompanied by a sense of guilt for having fled.
Giovanna is a psychologist and part of EMERGENCY’s team in Moldova that is responding to the needs of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. At the Mobile Clinic in Bălți, EMERGENCY offers primary medical care and psychological support too.
“They often show us photos of their children, their home, their pets… thus starting the process of reconstructing the temporal continuity interrupted by the war, tying together that ‘before’ and ‘after’.”
EMERGENCY’s approach is multidisciplinary. Giovanna works alongside a mediator to welcome patients to the clinic, before listening to personal testimonies. She also works with the doctor during medical checks “precisely because we know that in emergency situations, the body often speaks and expresses emotions that we cannot yet express using words”.
What we offer is “a perspective of intervention, which is short, specialized, oriented to the treatment of the crisis and the signs of trauma already present in the first weeks. When counselling in settings like this, we try not to leave anything unresolved, because the person doesn’t know how long they will stay here or if they will move further away. We often propose a second appointment, also because of the beneficial effects of having a commitment for those who live in this ‘suspended state’: some accept immediately, others want to wait and see how they will feel in the hours following the consultation or if they will still be here, because they hope to return home soon. Several come back, even if only to say thank you and that they feel better.
Among the issues that often emerges during sessions is the inability to ‘turn off the brain’, to disconnect, even at night, thus hindering rest and the physiological processes of restoration and recovery.
This is the case of a 20-year-old patient who left her boyfriend and sister in Ukraine. We provided her with psycho-educational advice, such as to only watch the news once, maximum twice a day, and to avoid doing so as the evening approaches.
When we discovered that she was a self-taught artist who paints, we gave her drawing materials. She had forgotten hers in the rush: ‘I never thought I could forget them,’ she said. She found relief when drawing.
‘This morning I already felt better before the session because I knew I had to prepare myself, that I had a commitment, and it had been a month since it happened: being able to tell my boyfriend not to call me for the next two hours, because I was busy, was a bit like recovering who I was before, finding myself and recognising myself,’ she told us the last time we saw her.”
During such a difficult situation, dominated by uncertainty, EMERGENCY’s Mobile Clinic aims to provide the crucial medical and psychological support that so many of those who have fled the Ukraine crisis need.