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Ieva Baltaduonyte
2022- Ongoing

On February 24, 2022, Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, triggering the largest civilian refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. To date, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 8 million Refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe and an estimated 8 million others had been displaced within the country. While this highly mediatized war has already had a devastating impact on the everyday lives of Ukrainians, it will also result in profound and long-lasting psychological damage to those directly affected, as well as impacting on future generations. Statistically, at least 1 in 10 resettled refugees suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the case of war, one-third of refugees are likely to experience PTSD. Among the symptoms of PTSD are acute anxiety, panic attacks, intrusive memories and thoughts, recurrent nightmares. People will often feel fear and anger, go through stages of grief, confusion and dissociation, and experience highly realistic flashbacks of the scenes that caused the trauma. Women and children comprise ninety percent of the Ukrainian refugee population. Among refugees, children are the most vulnerable, with separation anxiety occurring in up to 70% of them. Nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children have been forced to leave their homes. The subjects photographed are women and teenager girls who have fled the war and now reside in Kaunas, Lithuania. Alesia Katser, a Ukrainian psychologist who works with refugees and is one of the subjects photographed writes: We Ukrainians were not prepared for bomb explosions, destruction, fearing for our lives, the pain of parting with our loved ones. But 24 February divided our lives into a before and an after. Our inner state is like the abyss between dream and reality, like a parallel reality, an ordinary life with sirens and bombings. Seventy four thousand Ukrainians have found safety and refuge in Lithuania, but we are only just beginning to adapt and to realise that we will have to start everything from scratch. Inside, there is only a void, there is no future, the past has been taken away, you feel left ‘hanging’, ‘stagnant’, you are a tree pulled up by its roots. Many feel guilty for having reached safety, and do not allow themselves to live. Many others suffer panic attacks when their body doesn’t obey them, and there are yet others who develop suicidal thoughts after what they have seen and experienced. Right now, all Ukrainians are experiencing the (post-)war syndrome, because we are all in a state of ‘war’ from one moment to the next, irrespective of our geographic location. All that we have left is faith and the desire to see our future as soon as possible. No one can take this away from us.

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