Less than a third of demobilized in Poltava fighters took advantage of psychological assistance to overcome the stress received in the ATO zone. We were trying to find out, if rehabilitation is available for servicemen in the region.

One and a half years ago, Vyacheslav Bondarenko returned from Debaltsevo. The man got a concussion in ATO. The rowing helps Vyacheslav to overcome memories of the war. Immediately after demobilization he began to drink alcohol due to stress.

Vyacheslav Bondarenko, ATO veteran: Vodka turned into water; well, that’s enough, I have never drunk alcohol before. Oars down and on! – remember that you are an athlete, and athletes do not give up. I sat down here and began to feel great. It was very difficult. Whistling in the ears, however, the team always supported me.

Not only did sports help the man to recover psychologically. He applied to rehabilitation center at the regional hospital for war veterans.

Vyacheslav Bondarenko, ATO veteran: I noticed that the patients in hospital wards are constantly talking about the war. War. War. There are rooms with animals, with hamsters. You already feel different attitudes. Here you see a bearded man sitting, and from a piece of paper he is caring something. Already he is distracted.

Now the fighter is here, as a visitor. And he does not hide the fact that he has passed here an art-, music-, aromatherapy and other procedures available here.

In the rehabilitation center the ATO-fighters are assisted for the third year. Before the Donbas events the Hospital focused only on physiological recovery. Currently, one of the main tasks is psychological rehabilitation of the servicemen.

Serhiy Golubev, Head of the Regional Clinical Hospital for War Veterans: Some people were injured. Many of them are not able to carry out their professional duties, professional skills they have got before they went to the ATO zone. A person withdraws into himself, and the so-called stigma is arising.

At the ATO beginning a few people applied for psychological rehabilitation, the psychologist Tetyana Romanenko remembers. Fighters avoided encounters with people of her specialty. Subsequently, the prejudice became lesser.

Tetyana Romanenko, psychologist:I enter the ward and say: "Good day! I am Tanya, a psychologist."  And now no longer with irony, but with a good smile and joy they communicate with me. Previously, this was not the case. Previously, I had to persuade them to come.

In Poltava region there are seven thousand demilitarized ATO-fighters. Eight hundred people seek help in the veteran center created last year by volunteers. And for the last two years over 600 patients used psychological rehabilitation in the regional hospital. In total it is only 20% of those people who returned from ATO. But many public figures consider that the state structures cannot provide comprehensive assistance.

Vitaliy Turpitko, Chairman of the Coordination Council of the "Participants of the ATO": They are, to my great regret, very closed in the framework. Prescribed staffing, just such doctors you cannot get, such-and-such doctors are not available, and there are no premises at all for innovative rehabilitation methods. In this regard the public organizations are much freer. We can create a small “dog-house” (kennel) there. And the transparency of the funds use is next larger.

The fighters’ relatives are no less stressed than the servicemen themselves. Therefore, the psychologists work with their families.

Oleksandra Syrotenko, director of the veteran center for social and psychological adaptation: "There are problems in families, the matter is that the person has changed and it is difficult for his wives to accept it; or men – they do not understand how many difficulties has overcome his wife, waiting for him from the front. There are many cases of divorce, or quarrels over nothing, because people simply cannot find a common language."

The post-war syndrome problem is not new for Ukraine. Veteran of Afghanistan Ivan Petrenko recalls: more than 30 years ago, psychological rehabilitation of the military men was almost absent. Therefore, those who returned from the war had problems with adaptation in peaceful life.

Ivan Petrenko, veteran of Afghanistan and ATO: "I had the guy I know, my friend. He served in Kabul, the 180th regiment. He was an officer, handsome, tall man. He simply did not find himself in this social medium. He turned into a homeless person."

There are several centers for psychological rehabilitation in Poltava. Two more are planning to open in the districts. Each serviceman can apply for assistance. Everyone, who seeks for a good future.

Vyacheslav Bondarenko, ATO veteran: Who wants to be engaged and rehabilitated, will be rehabilitated. There are enough possibilities in our state. As they say: "Under lying stone water does not flow."

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This article has been prepared in a framework of the Regional Voices project, supported by the European Union.


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