Survivor Assistance Centers: how to get comprehensive support during wartime
What to do if you survived the occupation, suffered any kind of violence, ran away from the enemy's bombs and shelling, and don't know what to do next? Who can you turn to, what kind of help can you count on, and how can you overcome the trauma and continue moving forward until Ukraine's victory over the russian aggressor? These questions arise before all survivors. And we will answer them.
What is the problem?
Since the beginning of russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, National Police investigators have initiated about 50,000 criminal proceedings based on the facts of crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine by russian servicemen and their accomplices. russians commit all possible crimes: looting, killing and torturing civilians, and sexual violence. In the front-line territories, Ukrainians are under constant shelling, they do not have basic means of subsistence: water, electricity, heat, and a roof over their heads. Even with a strong spirit, it is extremely difficult for people to cope with new challenges and difficulties on their own, especially when everything familiar remains in the past and they have to start life from scratch.
What is the solution?
Help the survivors
From the first days of the full-scale war, people became the foundation of Ukraine's stability. That is why the preservation of their physical and mental health is as important today as the protection of Ukrainian cities from the aggressive actions of the enemy. On the initiative of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, with the assistance of the Government Commissioner for Gender Policy, with the support of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and local authorities in Ukraine, a network of Assistance Centers is being created.
Professional teams of psychologists, lawyers, and social workers are already working in the centers in four Ukrainian cities — Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Lviv, and Kyiv. Specialists qualitatively and free of charge help people get out of stress, find inner support, and understand what to do specifically to adapt to new conditions and return to a normal life. It is planned to open another Assistance Center for survivors in Chernivtsi soon.
"From the first days, we faced unprecedented challenges related to mass displacement of citizens, cases of violence, particularly sexual. We were united by the understanding that no matter how difficult it may be, it is important to stand side by side with our people until the end. Help centers for survivors have become an entry point to a new life for those who need support and a sense of elementary security, as much as possible in the conditions of war," Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna says.
How does it work?
Everyone is understood here
For Ukrainians who were forced to leave their homes and move to a foreign city, it is quite difficult to orient themselves in the issues of finalizing the necessary documents, finding out about available financial, humanitarian, psychological, and medical assistance, finding housing or a job — the center's specialists help to deal with all this.
Comprehensive professional assistance is provided to survivors in all Assistance Centers, in particular:
- informational (where and what kind of humanitarian assistance can be obtained, how to join the labor exchange, how to place a child in an educational institution, how and where to use state services, and so on).
Among the center's workers are those who have also gone through similar stories — they fled the occupation and experienced first-hand the feelings and problems of those who need help and support today. Kateryna Shatkovska is a psychologist at the Assistance Center, a re-settler from Crimea. "I understand when you throw everything and leave with one suitcase," she says.
There are quite frequent cases when fleeing from the enemy, people come even without a passport. The centers' lawyers help go through all the relevant procedures for the restoration of documents: to correctly issue requests, write a letter, fill out forms, and help find a notary public. If a person has survived violence, lawyers here will explain the victim's rights, help with filing statements and lawsuits, and even represent the victim's interests in court.
The workers of the Assistance Centers for the rescued emphasize that for them, there are no unimportant problems with which people apply. Case managers help with the search for any information. Sometimes, they can even explain how to get to the right place if a person is still poorly oriented and does not know the city. Here, visitors can count on support with finding housing or temporary shelter and advice on the possibility of receiving cash payments, humanitarian aid, etc.
"The military protects our families, our children, and we united to help people who suffered as a result of hostilities," case manager Kateryna Kravets, who previously escaped the occupation and now helps other survivors in their daily challenges, comments.
Safe, confidential, free
Another important issue that the Centers' specialists take care of is the provision of qualified assistance to victims of any kind of violence. However, it is emphasized here that the rescued often do not understand that they are victims because violence is not always associated with physical pain. It can take different forms: economic, psychological, physical, and sexual. Any violence can have psychological consequences for a person, which should be discussed with a psychologist.
"We stopped being afraid to go to a psychologist only a few years ago. Before that, we asked ourselves — am I sick? These stereotypes prevent many Ukrainians from asking for help. People do not know what sexual violence is, what is the norm, and what is not. They are afraid of condemnation," says Nadine, head of the Assistance Center in the city of Dnipro.
But the Centers' employees advise you to contact them for support without fear or shame because the help here is entirely confidential.
Unfortunately, the offender can be not only a stranger or an enemy. Employees of the Assistance Center in Kyiv say: "What happens outside affects what is inside." As a result, the number of domestic violence cases is also increasing.
Everyone who turns to the Centers should understand that their problem will not be neglected and will not be left without support. In cases where a person is subjected to violence at home, the Center will direct them to the so-called "crisis rooms," where they can temporarily find free shelter. In addition, they offer free sessions with a psychologist. Experts recommend that you work through such a psychological trauma to protect yourself and your loved ones from possible consequences.
Specialists of the Centers constantly undergo advanced training courses and special trainings. Assistance is provided according to the best international standards, in particular, the principles of the Istanbul Convention.
"We help a person to feel like a full-fledged person, to work through a traumatic experience. It's like a scar that won't go anywhere, but over time it will stop hurting," says one of the psychologists at the Assistance Center for Survivors.
Those who have already applied to the centers say that here they help solve urgent problems, change their worldview, and regain strength and understanding of what to do next — thanks to this, life changes for the better. Services for survivors must be completely free of charge, and help is provided as much as the person needs it, even in the case of moving to another city or abroad.
"We treat people like our own relatives, and we will go to the end with them," says Tetyana Velyka, head of the Assistance Center for Helping Survivors in Zaporizhzhia.
You can contact the Assistance Centers at the following addresses:
- Zaporizhzhia, Soborny Avenue, 106 Mon – Sat from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., phone: +38 (050) 463 16 29
- Lviv, Lviv Palace of Arts, st. Mykoly Kopernyka, 17, Mon – Fri from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., phone: +38 (067) 600 32 69, +38 (050) 777 22 19
- Dnipro, Krutohirny Uzviz, 21, DCCC Contemporary Art Center, Mon – Fri from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., phone: +38 (099) 245 21 21
- Kyiv, str. Yu. Illenka, 20, Mon-Fri from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., phone: +38 (066) 170 48 90
The material was prepared by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration with the assistance of the UN Population Fund in Ukraine — UNFPA Ukraine.