Psychological support for soldiers participating in the armed conflicts and members of their families is an important part of rehabilitation after wartime.
The second Chechen War has brought Russia thousands of military casualties, immense expenditures on military needs and the suffering of “temporary refugees.” However, the Chechen campaign has also created psychological problems for soldiers who return to peaceful life; this leads to thousands of broken families and suffering inflicted on children. (…) Psychologists assert that the dismissed soldiers return as absolutely different people. They are intensely aggressive and are apparently inclination to depression. Their values are deformed and they lose interest in activities, which are not related to the war. They have nothing in common with their relatives, lose old friends and cannot find work. The skills and values, which they gained during wartime, turn out to be useless in peaceful life. As a rule, they try to resolve their problems with alcohol. The scariest things also happen. Thus, in Novocherkassk, two soldiers of the special police forces, shortly after their return from Chechnya, killed their wives…
Psychologists, who are specifically trained to rehabilitate servicemen, are few in number in the region and the number of professional psychologists is even fewer. Nevertheless, it is possible to find help and support.
Since 1992, doctors of the Rostov Regional Center of Medical Rehabilitation have been rehabilitating psychologically and medically rehabilitating participants in military operations, members of their families and the relatives of soldiers killed in action. The center renders free of charge medical and psychological aid to such people. The center has excellent equipment. Doctors know about problems of the servicemen not by hearsay. They have started to work with soldiers taking part in the Chechen War. Participants of all armed conflicts in Russia and abroad have passed through their hands. During the last four years, 8,500 servicemen and members of their families have applied for help from the center.
Eleven centers in the region use the methods of the regional rehabilitation center. They all render both medical and psychological help.
Experts of the 625th Psychological Aid and Rehabilitation Center (in the military district) work with participants of the armed conflicts directly in military units. The center was established not long ago, on December 1, 1999, and it has 26 employees only, but all of them are excellently trained. Psychologists of the center are servicemen. They regularly visit the areas of the military operations and know the specific traits of psychological rehabilitation of the servicemen well.
The public organization, Women of Don, is working on the problem of improving the quality of military psychologists. Headed by Valentina Cherevatenko, they started working in January 1999 and are supported by a grant, which was allocated by the Open Society Institute. A public employee, a lawyer and four professional psychologists have been working on the program. It is worth mentioning that women psychologists work with soldiers. This is a principal position. It was noted that participants of the armed conflicts treat women psychologists differently; they are willing to forgive her for her lack of combat experience. Soldiers find it easier to reveal their problems to a woman.
(…) Psychologist Galina Zamshina states that soldiers in the Chechen war treat the current war differently. For them, military service means execution of their male duty, a possibility to demonstrate their own heroism and prove their worth to the country.
As a rule, soldiers from the first Chechen war do not wear any decorations. The tradition of the White Guard army still lives: no decorations are gained during a civil war. Speaking about their service, heroes of the first Chechen campaign emphasize that they were sent there; they did not volunteer to fight in Chechnya. Soldiers in the second war are in better psychological condition; they do not perceive themselves as invaders and they speak easier of patriotism and their duty.
(…)Galina Zamshina has worked with a group of officers’ wives. The women have not spoken about the war; at first glance, they have been anxious about trivial and routine problems of family relations, such as the unawareness of children. However, the breath of war has been present in all of this. The self-confidence of such women is undermined; their husbands drink too often, reveal cruelty and aggression and even beat them. The children, especially sons, treat their mothers with neglect and looking to their fathers. The women are desperate. They do not know a way out of this deadlock.
According to Zamshina, seminars with members of soldiers’ families are no less important than the seminars with soldiers. The experience shows that if at least one member of the family has the skill of constructive communication and knows how resolve interpersonal problems, it is much easier to restore the harmony in the family. Frequently, it is a woman that initiates reconciliation in the family.
Aside from the work at the Don division, Women of Don has arranged in Novocherkassk work of psychologists with mothers and wives of all servicemen who had come through armed conflicts. Special attention is paid to the widows and mothers of the killed soldiers. As is know, it is much harder for them to cope with the situation.