Welcome to Ukraine

August 17, 2023
By: James S. Gordon, MD

Before I tell you about the Ternopil training, I’d like to tell you how we got here. 

I knew, from February 24, 2022, the first day of the Russian invasion, that I and The Center for Mind-Body Medicine had to be in Ukraine. It felt, to me, a bit like the Spanish Civil War, a pivotal moment, a struggle for freedom and democracy in the face of brutal aggression by an authoritarian government.

I knew, of course, that my colleagues and I could only play a small role, but that it could be an important one, bringing to the Ukrainians trauma healing tools and support that could help them deal with the terror they had experienced and the threats they were facing: first, teaching community leaders to use our program of self care and mutual help for themselves, and then teaching them to use what they’d learned, what had helped them, with all those whom they serve.

This is what we’d done in Kosovo, during and after the 1998-1999 war, what we have continued to do in Israel and Gaza for 20 years, in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, a model we’ve used with war traumatized veterans in the U.S., with communities that have been terrorized by mass shootings, overwhelmed by climate-related disasters, and demoralized and devastated by the historical trauma that indigenous people have suffered. 

Ukraine was, of course, far larger–45 million people–than any of the overseas communities in which we’d previously worked, but it felt important to do whatever we could. 

The picture above is of my first meeting in Ukraine, 15 minutes after I arrived at my hotel in Lviv. The man is Roman Kechur, and the woman is Roksolana. 

All I knew before I met him was that Roman was a physician, and that he was the only contact I had in Ukraine. It turned out, in one of those happy coincidences that we call synchronicity, that he was exactly the person I needed to meet: one of the leading, most respected psychiatrists in Ukraine, the chair of the department of psychology at Ukrainian Catholic University, the head of four major psychiatric, psychoanalytic, and psychotherapeutic organizations, and a wonderfully open-minded, brilliant, and welcoming human being. Roksolana, Roman’s interpreter, made it possible for us to explore so many possibilities for collaboration, for Roman to understand our program, and to plan to introduce me to exactly the people I needed to meet.

You will undoubtedly notice that Roman and Roksolana and everything behind them is red. That’s because within minutes after I arrived at my hotel, the air raid sirens went off, and we needed to adjourn to the basement bomb shelter. 

Read the other entries in this series

An Intermission and a Celebration

Wonderful to feel the deep and abiding commitment to Ukraine of Secretary Hillary Clinton and…

At Save Ukraine’s Center for Hope and Healing

At Save Ukraine Rescue Network’s “Trauma Oriented Mental Health Center,” now renamed the Center for…

Partnering with Save Ukraine

This time in Kyiv, Save Ukraine and its Director, Mykola Kuleba, and Project Manager Dmytro…