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Ukraine and civilian war trauma

  • Season: Season 4
  • Posted On:

Is recovery possible after witnessing war?

Content Warning: war fighting, sexual violence, genocide

An online transcript is available

The latest iteration of Russia's war on Ukraine has entered its second year prompting us to examine the issue of war trauma — especially the toll war takes on civilians. Russia's indiscriminate targeting of civilian housing, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure has not only made civilians witnesses of war, but victims of it. War-rape, which was only recognized as a crime against humanity following the war in the former Yugoslavia, is being used by Russian forces and paramilitaries as a means of terrorizing civilians.

On today's program, four conversations about civilians during and after war.


We first visited the war in Ukraine on March 24, 2022.

In that episode, Life during wartime, using a lens of whole person care, we talk with people reaching out to others in wartime, making connections, and countering the darkness with (in the words of W.H. Auden) "ironic points of light." You can listen to the full episode here.

Sr. Donna Markham, OP, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and Dominican sister, heads Catholic Charities USA. She describes her encounters with Ukrainian civilians during her recent trip to the war zone and the tasks that face the people of Ukraine today. (Watch: Catholic Charities' webinar on Sr. Donna's visit to Ukraine.)

Next: we talk with Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, MBBS, Ph.D., a physician who co-directs the Centre for Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto about the long-term effects of maternal and child health of living in a war zone and the very real developmental deficits that can arise by disruption of adequate nutrition, normal schooling, and play. (Watch: Aga Khan University's Lecture by Dr. Bhutta on the future of maternal and child health.)

And we have a conversation with Shanna Kohn who is Director of International Education at Sesame Workshop. In addition to its longstanding effort to meet the educational needs of refugee children, for the first time ever, Sesame Workshop in Ukraine is producing content for children in an active war zone. (Watch: the entire episode "Гровер сумує" ["Grover is Sad"])

And finally, we talk with Dr. Nena Močnik, Ph.D., author of Trauma Transmission and Sexual Violence: Reconciliation and Peacebuilding in Post Conflict Settingsabout the use of rape as a tool of war and the ways victims can begin to recover from the trauma of it. (Watch: Project Eirene's video of Dr. Močnik's webinar on "Women and Post-War Transitions: Oral history,")

BONUS: Listen to our episode "Life During Wartime"(Episode 041) from March, 2022 where we examined the early days of the Russian War on Ukraine through the lens of whole-person care; how every aspect of a person's life is thrown out of balance in the midst of war. It features conversations with displaced people, ex-pats and people of Ukrainian ancestry living in the U.S. eager to help people back home, relief workers assisting refugees, and a journalist with a long history of covering Putin and the Ukraine.


  • Sr. Donna Markham OP PhD
  • Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta MBBS PhD
  • Shanna Kohn
  • Nena Močnik PhD
  • Seán Collins


  • ptsd
  • war rape
  • war's effects on health
  • catholic charities
  • civilians in war
  • maternal and child health
  • recovery from trauma
  • war trauma
  • rape as tool of war
  • sesame workshop