In a Shelter for Internally Displaced People

August 18, 2023
By: James S. Gordon, MD

On this chilly April morning, psychiatrist Roman Kechur brought together 20 leaders of major Ukrainian groups of psychiatrists and psychotherapists to learn about CMBM’s work, strategize about how we can bring the work to Ukraine, and, of course, practice Soft Belly Breathing.

Later in the day, Roman’s colleague, psychologist Khrystja Turetska, took me to the school she had attended as a child, which has now been repurposed as a shelter for 60 people who had fled their homes in communities on the front lines of fighting. 

The man pictured in the blue sweatshirt (with his son and mother) is from the devastated city of Kharkiv and is one of the people we talked with at the shelter. He loved the Shaking and Dancing I did with him, and saw it as an ideal way to relieve the anxiety that has disabled him since his home was bombed. 

We also met a mother of two from Kyiv who told me that her 7 year old son was “angry all the time”. Trying to “calm him down” has not worked. She immediately, intuitively appreciated my suggestion to get him to hit a punching bag, nodding vigorously when I said he had to get the anger out before he could calm down.

Finally, we talked with a young man from the destroyed city of Mariupol. An artist and photographer, he wanted me to explain “how human beings could do” what he saw the Russian soldiers do to Ukrainian civilians. I tell him what I can about the way Putin and his circle have dehumanized Ukrainians, accused them of being “Nazis” and “vermin,” and relentlessly propagandized against them. It is a good talk and, as you can see in the last photo, although we remain confounded by the horrible, gratuitous cruelty exhibited by the Russians, we are glad for these moments of sharing. 




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