My Story - My Power

"My story - my power". This was the title of a series of trainings on storytelling as a means of psychological recovery for ex-combatants of the ATO/JFO.

Everything you have experienced - good or bad - can become fuel to move on. Sometimes this fuel is enough not only for the survivor, but also for others.

The skill of melting trauma and pain into history can be mastered. This can be a "launching pad" for learning a new profession, or it can be just a good opportunity to understand yourself.

The two-day intensive courses for ex-combatants in Bakhmut, Berdiansk, and Dnipro were continued in an online format. The project is supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and was led by Olga Onyshko from Washington, DC. An expert in cinematography and storytelling, founder of the OliaFilm studio, producer, director, cinematographer, and editor, she has experience in television journalism, co-authored media literacy campaigns (including Stop Fake), and worked on the documentaries Three Stories of Galicia, Women of the Maidan, etc.

Marta Pyvovarenko, a psychologist and mental health expert who provides psychological support for the course, says: "We do this so that veterans can talk about their previous experiences without feeling that something is wrong. This is possible only when they have processed their experience and understood how it is perceived by the public, how it sounds."

The storytelling method will help you "release" your experience from yourself, accumulate it, and tell about it in a way that society wants to hear and understand. And it's not just about military stories. In addition to being useful for the veteran, the ability to talk about oneself and one's experience will be useful in employment.

"The same things can be said in very different ways without changing the information, simplifying it for the perception of certain audiences," says Marta. "When we talk about employers, they have a certain focus on things that do not cut their ears. A lot of employers perceive a veteran through the prism of "weapons are a threat". They have an instinctive series of thoughts that are very often not true."

An average Ukrainian can easily name up to 5 big names of ex-combatants. Pizza by Leonid Ostaltsev, "Infantry" by Martin Brest - the list goes on. Their stories have become a kind of brand.

"There should be hundreds of such names, not just 5" assures Marta. "We want to increase the number of veterans' voices, we want a multitude of voices. This is the only way we can achieve an understanding of what it is. How can we even talk about the image of a veteran if we build it on 5-6 stories, on stereotypes?"

She notes that it is not about idealization, because ex-combatants are real people, and idealization does not make sense but leads to disappointment.

The project resulted in short videos where ex-combatants tell their stories. They will be able to use them at their own discretion - send them in advance of an interview; keep them for a family archive. Or they can let their story become a part of a documentary film that Olha Onyshko plans to edit in the future so that the ex-combatants voice can be heard around the world.

But due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, due to Russia's war against the Ukrainian people, the project was suspended. We hope for its continuation.

For reference.

The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The program is supported by twelve international partners: The European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.


Olena Maksymenko

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