A sociologist from Donbas reflects on problems that people who had to flee their homes due to the war face.
IDPs are accused of betraying their motherland, and in other regions of Ukraine they are called separatists who failed to stop the war.
Oksana Mykheeva, who had to move from Donetsk to Lviv after the beginning of the war explains why the majority of internally displaced persons will never return to the Donbas.
Probably, this is the general plan: not to facilitate the process of internally displaced persons' adaptation to new life so that they would return home. Part 1
Probably, this is the general plan: not to facilitate the process of internally displaced persons' adaptation to new life so that they would return home. Part 2
“You had researched the theme of internally displaced persons for a long time and two years ago you had to leave occupied Donetsk yourself. Judging by your own experience and by the research you have conducted, what are the main problems people who decide to leave occupied territories face?”
“I would suggest dividing this question into two parts as research and own experience are different things”.
“Let us begin with the tendencies you have noticed and then proceed with you own experience”.
“The crucial problem for those who had to leave their home is accommodation. It is followed by the problem of unemployment. Other problems can be divided into several segments but, according to my data, the most important here is health in all its aspects. I mean, physical health, medical service and the possibility to get it, mental health. A lot of people connect their diseases with the stress they had to go though leaving the occupied territories. In many cases, they need medical and psychological help simultaneously.
Some problems occur due to the fact that Ukrainian institutions do not work well enough. Mostly, people use personal connections (their relatives or friends or their recommendations) which are grounded on trust. So, an IDP leaves the environment where he or she had all necessary social contacts and connections. In his or her new place of residence, this person has to address “cold” and “depersonalized” institutions and of course, he or she loses something, compared to people who solve their problems on the level of personal network of necessary contacts”.
“Does the status of an internally displaced person help or hamper the solution of these problems?”
“It helps, but here we face a situation when you are an IDP and you address an institution which occupies with IDPs’ problems. This is a dramatic moment for a person. All our institutions are equally “cold”. If you want to get a visa or some help, to consult a doctor, you should mention your status all the time. As long as you contact on the level “person-person” everything is fine, you will be understood and provided with necessary help. However, as soon as you try to get to the “person-institution” level, problems arise. The situation is complicated as on the one hand, the person is nervous because everyone mentions his or her IDP status all the time, on the other hand, this person becomes more sensitive to commentaries, situations and surrounding and starts imagining some things which are not really said about him or her”.
“What about you personally?”
“Constantly mentioning my IDP status is painful for me as well though I have managed to adapt to my new environment really well. My present surrounding was not new or strange to me. I went to Lviv with my family without any plan or employment prospects. I had a lot of friends and colleagues here, Lviv historians and sociologists who I had known for a long time, and this played a crucial role in my decision. The majority of them helped me a lot, they supported me and I am eternally grateful to them. Still, even I often face a situation when there is a problem and I have no idea how to solve it or what my next step should be. You know, it is really difficult to change your line of conduct when you are not used to getting help. You have to learn how to accept aid and this is very difficult”.
“In your opinion, has mass media learnt to show IDPs’ problems in an objective way? Especially, if to take into consideration the last year’s material about “how bad IDPs from Donetsk are”?”
“There are some changes, of course. Ukrainian journalism has “grown up” to some extent due to these events and journalists now think about the consequences their materials may have. I think, the problem is not only mass media themselves, but also their owners and the human factor. A media worker is also an alive person who finds himself or herself among some discourses and starts reproducing them. Multiplication of materials created an avalanche effect. The majority of materials about “bad IDPs” were a part of the information war. Now, a lot of journalists have some element of self-censorship due to feedback from readers so they can resist informational fakes”.
“What are the most important factors for integration of internally displaced persons at new localities? Are they social adaptation, economic factors, religion or others?..”
“I think, the question of survival is on the first place. Social networking is on the second one. Those who find work quickly and start networking due to their contacts feel more at ease. Sense of humour helps as well, I have understood this myself. For some time I was afraid to joke in my new environment as I was not aware of local cultural codes and a joke can be painful. There are a lot of cultural differences and the process of learning them is very long. Religion and values are different as well. A lot of things depend on the person’s wish to work and open “new horizons”.
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