A centre of psychological and medical rehabilitation of the military personnel and veterans of the war in the East of Ukraine was opened in Odesa. The institution was established on the basis of the local pedagogical university at the expense of the European Command of the US Armed Forces.

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According to the vice-rector of the educational institution Serhii Tronko, the history of the rehabilitation centre for our defenders reaches the year 2014 – the very beginning of the Russian aggression. Back in that time, the teaching staff together with the students helped the Ukrainian military personnel voluntarily.

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“It was so until the International Social Adaptation Fund offered us to participate in the program “Ukraine-Norway”. In 2015, the Odesa Black Sea Center for Conversion of Military Personnel appealed to the US embassy for help to create a rehabilitation centre for people with post-traumatic syndrome on the basis of the building withdrawn from the educational process. Frankly speaking, we didn’t expect that our request will be heard. And what happened next was a complete surprise for us,” Mr Tronko said.

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The psychological and medical centre at the university was renovated at the expense of the European Command of the US Armed Forces. The work was led by the engineer of the US Navy Jose Hernandez.

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Today, the centre has ambitious goals: to master advanced rehabilitation techniques and expand its own programs. Since the Odesa centre, unlike medical and health institutions, is academic, its employees require the study of specific methods of psychological adaptation. These are the programs already developed in the Armed Forces of the United States and Norway. Therefore, according to vice-rector Tronko, they need to learn and adopt this experience.

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The opening of the rehabilitation centre was attended by the minister of veteran affairs Iryna Friz. According to her, Ukraine is a unique state, which, being in a state of war, manages to implement reforms and open such centres, helping our servicemen, veterans and volunteers.

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“Ukraine needs help in this difficult time. The programs of psychological support and medical rehabilitation are nowadays the area that should be developed as soon as possible with all modern methods and technologies. We must already understand and assess all the risks that we will face if we do not deploy a modern infrastructure of an appropriate system of assistance for veterans,” the head of the ministry believes.

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The minister also hopes that this is not the last project that will be implemented together with international partners within the framework of the state policy for veterans. “Today our country needs friends who understand the value of the price that Ukraine gives for democratic values. I thank the US and Norway for their support. You directly understand that wave which Ukraine can expect if we don’t start to develop rehabilitation centres for psychological support on time. I hope that together we are able to overcome not only the Russian aggression but also all the problems that can be expected by our veterans after their return home,” Ms Friz added.

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As explained by the AFU Lieutenant Colonel Oleh Sydorenko, such centres are designed to return the consciousness of a military man to a peaceful life, so that veterans understand that they are not at the forefront, and once again become a part of the society they defended and which they returned to for the development of the state.

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“As a chaplain of the Armed Forces of the 28th brigade of our Odesa hospital, and from the experience of constant communication with our servicemen, I am convinced that the opening of rehabilitation centres is an extremely standing necessity. The necessity that arose back in 2014, when the first guys were returning home. There is no one who would not be affected by PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – ED). Those who say they are not affected simply do not realize it.

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After returning from the third rotation, I myself felt an outbreak of PTSD in my life. Because of this, my family had nearly collapsed, and I do not know what the reason for this was. In the war, I lost several friends, and the closest one – my brother. The other brother is injured, his left arm is not functioning. What I experienced during the fighting is still in my mind. Every military man feels guilty for the deaths of his comrades. Getting rid of this is the main task of rehabilitation centres. A person needs to feel innocent, then he will return to normal life,” Mr Sydorenko emphasized.

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According to the veteran, the experience of the United States and Norway plays a key role in the rehabilitation of our defenders. “They went through many waves of different wars. To support the US, we even held a flash mob 22 Pushup Challenge, in which one needed to do 22 push-ups for 22 days in a row. Every day, 22 American veterans who have survived in Vietnam commit suicide. Since then, the waves of suicides have continued, and this is a consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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In Ukraine, 70% of families of the military from the front line are destroyed. In order to preserve our society (and the family is its important component), we need to maintain moral calmness in the souls of our servicemen. That’s what such rehabilitation centres are for. And the experience of the United States and Norway… it is not just useful for us. It is invaluable,” said the chaplain to Opinion.

Photo by Dmytro Zhuravel

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