Iryna is an artist, a mother, a veteran, and a Ukrainian woman living with PTSD. Displaced from her home in Zaporizhzhia region to Ivano-Frankivsk, she documents her thoughts and feelings through her art. 

"My dream is to return to my hometown and paint it with patriotic murals. I've seen it abroad. It's a cool thing…and I could do it."

Iryna had started her career as an art teacher, but by the time Russia’s forces launched their full scale invasion of Ukraine she was an assistant cook in Ukraine’s Armed Forces, on a military mission in Mariupol. She lived through fierce fighting, the fear of losing loved ones living under occupation, and being separated from her child. As a result of these traumas, Iryna resigned from the Armed Forces and sought shelter abroad with her son. 

It was while she was abroad that Iryna first experienced symptoms of PTSD and depression.

“The depression was very strong. I didn't want to live, you know? The only thing that saved me was that I was a mother, I had a child, and I couldn't afford not to live. I wasn't interested in anything else.”

Iryna returned to Ukraine with her son, and started a new life in Ivano-Frankivsk. After a suggestion from friends, she reached out to the Integration Center for Mental Health and Trauma Therapy, supported by USAID. The services provided by the center were free - critical for Iryna because, like many other displaced Ukrainians, she is on a reduced income after resigning from her job. 

"Sessions with psychologist Nadia helped me. I understood my fears and problems and learned to live with the new reality," says Iryna, who gradually began to come back to life.

"I was more interested in going out. I started to take an interest in food, clothes, I wanted to buy something for myself - everything like a normal person. I don't have panic attacks anymore, and I even want a social life and a job. I do volunteer work - I weave camouflage nets. I consider the desire to find a job a sign of recovery." 

"Life has turned a bit differently," Iryna smiles, "I got married to my fiancé, who serves in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I am pregnant, expecting a child and waiting for my husband. I have an even greater incentive to live."

Iryna advises all her friends who have lived through occupation, displacement, or who have fought on the frontlines to seek psychological help:

"It will not go away, it will only get worse and worse. The war continues. What is happening is very scary, especially for those who are at the front. We need to unite and do everything we can to win, as well as work on our mental state (morale) in order to be helpful to Ukraine."

USAID has supported the provision of mental health services to veterans and their family members in Ukraine since 2015. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, USAID has worked closely with the Government of Ukraine and First Lady Olena Zelenska’s All-Ukrainian Mental Health Initiative to strengthen service provision by training over 1,000 Primary Health Care providers, improving access to health services for 1 million Ukrainians like Iryna. USAID supports Ukraine as it continues to build an integrated, accessible, and sustainable mental health care system that addresses the long term needs of all Ukrainians as they fight to win the war and win their future. 

To find out more about the Integration Center for Mental Health and Trauma Therapy click here.

Iryna's story
USAID/Ukraine Ukraine Stories