A lecturer – volunteer in UCU Department of Social Pedagogy, Wawa Bachynska, who holds an MSW from Smith College School of Social Work (USA) was awarded a scholarship to participate in the Harvard Program of Refugee Trauma as an acknowledgement of her translation from English into Ukrainian of a book by Dr. Richard F. Mollica, Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World (Originally published in 2006 by Harcourt, Inc. Published in paperback in 2009 by Vanderbilt University Press). Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file ISBN 978-0-8265-1641-1.
Ms. Wawa Bachynska came to Ukraine in 2003 as a Fulbright Scholar in order to teach Social Work at UCU. In the States, she specialized in working with immigrants, ran programs, offered courses to increase the qualifications of staff and refugees. At age 69, Wawa continues to translate, contributes as a volunteer at the university, and participates in organizing psychological trainings.
“During soviet times a system of protecting mental health was poorly developed in Ukraine and often abused by the soviet authorities. People ignored such topics as psychological trauma or family violence. However, starting in 2005, the situation improved. Before I came to Ukraine, I worked at an agency named MICAS (Metropolitan Indochinese Children and Adolescent Services) which served children of refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. It was a time when many left their war-torn countries and often, after a stay in refugee camps, were permitted to settle in various countries, among them the United States. We met these newly-arrived children and adolescents in their schools throughout the Boston area. At one school, a teacher noticed that there were several girls from one Cambodian family who were always sleepy. Obviously, they got little sleep at night at home. As it turned out, when the case was referred to our agency, five relatives of the family were murdered right in front of their eyes. “In order to pass on the history of the family, the father of the family painted the executions of the family members on the walls of the daughters’ bedroom. That is why the children could not sleep. The father did so from good motives, never realizing how it could influence his daughters,” described Wawa.
In order to gain new knowledge, Wawa decided to apply to the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) some years ago. Participants go to Italy where they get to know each other and participate in seminars (November 6-19), followed by a six month long on-line training (November-May). Upon successful completion, participants receive a Certificate of HPRT from Harvard Medical School.
“I understood that some donors may be willing to fund my studies, but I could not bring myself to seek them. Then, in 2013, all were gathering donations for the support of the Army since Russia had begun its war with Ukraine, – describes Wawa. – Instead, I proposed to the organizers of the program that I would be willing to translate a book of their choice gratis, if they in turn would decrease the price of participation in the program”, – continued Wawa.
The book, which was chosen by the organizers, was Healing Invisible Wounds by Richard F. Mollica, a Professor of Psychology at the Harvard Medical School, and Director of HPRT.
Dr. Mollica has thirty years of experience of working with victims of torture, and violence in various countries, such as: Cambodia, USA, Bosnia, Japan. He is the recipient of the Human Rights Award from the American Psychiatric Association.
In the book, the author describes the unusual ability of traumatized individuals to heal themselves, to find within themselves the resources to overcome trauma. In this, a vital role is played by society — which can either support the healing or — counterwise, halt this process.
In translating the book, Wawa admits that she learned a lot: “This is not simply theory, but the histories of people who suffered. The materials in the book are based on real conversations. In the book, the author emphasizes that, besides medicine, each person has an inner resource to overcome the illness. One only has to set oneself up for that.”
Wawa Bachynska expects that upon completion of the program, she will able to pass on the received knowledge to students or to join projects of UCU Rehabilative Medicine.
“From war people return changed; they are different from who they were earlier. Probably, students have among their friends and relatives, those who were at ATO. They should know how to relate to them, how to react to changes in behavior, what to ask, and what not to ask… One can learn this,” assures this psychiatric social worker.