Free virtual support group aims to help Ukrainians in B.C. deal with Russian invasion

Free virtual support group aims to help Ukrainians in B.C. deal with Russian invasion
Two Lower Mainland registered clinical counsellors are holding a free virtual support group this weekend for Ukrainians in British Columbia who want to share their emotions and feelings towards ongoing violent events occurring in Ukraine. (Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News)

A free virtual support group is available this weekend for Ukrainians in British Columbia who want or needs help processing the ongoing violent events occurring in Ukraine.

Hosted by Lower Mainland registered clinical counsellors Aliona Sydorenko and Viktoriya Fedorchuk, the virtual support group will be held over Zoom at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. It will be offered in Ukrainian, Russian as well as English and is available to anyone in British Columbia who is Ukrainian or of Ukrainian heritage.

Speaking to CHEK News on Friday, Fedorchuk said the idea behind the virtual support group is to create a safe space for Ukrainians to share their feelings about the difficult events occurring overseas.

“Those of us who have family and friends back in the Ukraine and other Eastern European countries as well … are dealing with a lot of anxiety and complex emotions,” Fedorchuk said. “So, we just wanted to come together as a community and hold space for people to process that and have a space that’s also run by therapists so people can hopefully feel safe to explore those emotions.”

The Russian invasion, now in its ninth day, has seen repeated airstrikes on various cities across Ukraine. Hundreds of civilians have either been wounded or died and more than 1.2 million refugees have fled the country, according to the latest United Nations estimates. Russian troops captured a nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, on Friday night during an attack that has sparked worldwide alarm.

Fedorchuk and Sydorenko, who are both from Ukraine and immigrated to Canada, say it is natural and even acceptable to feel angry, upset and rage about the events overseas.

“Those are really valid emotions to feel right now because what’s happening isn’t OK and isn’t normal. I think people should be outraged and should be feeling upset and angry about what’s going on,” said Fedorchuk, who provides counselling services out of New Westminster. “I wouldn’t want to say that we should be OK right now, because what’s happening ultimately, isn’t OK.”

“All of the feelings that are really running strong for everybody, especially within the Ukrainian community in Ukraine and all over the world, they’re all valid,” added Sydorenko.

According to Sydorenko, many Ukrainians overseas feel ashamed that they cannot be in the Ukraine right now. She said it is important for Ukrainians in Canada to remain calm and support each other.

“The better we’re able to remain as calm as possible and support ourselves, the better we going to be able to support our loved ones in Ukraine or those who have fled,” she said.

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Sydorenko, who provides counselling services in downtown Vancouver, said what has helped her the most is being able to connect with her family back home in the Ukraine as well as other Ukrainians either in Canada or abroad.

“What helps the most is connecting with my loved ones, the ones who are in Ukraine, and also ones who are all over the world, just holding each other and being in community is important,” she said. “As as a mental health professional, I work with a lot of Ukrainians are living in Vancouver. So just even connecting with my clients, even though my role is to support them, it still helps to be in the community that helps even me.”

Fedorchuk said seeking out mental health services such as qualified counsellors is always a valid option for people, but also stressed the importance of the Ukrainian community coming together right now.

“Coming together within the Ukrainian communities right now and being able to support each other, I think, is really important.

Only one virtual support group is planned for right now but Sydorenko and Fedorchuk haven’t ruled out holding another one in the future. Fedorchuk said she would like to see other therapists and organizations come together and help out.

“Ultimately, we are just two people and we’re doing what we can to support the community but it would be amazing to see other therapists and other organizations come together in this way as well because the need is definitely there,” she said.

The virtual support group takes place on Sunday, March 6 between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Those interested in registering are asked to text their name and e-mail to 604-449-8475. For questions and more information, individuals can e-mail [email protected] or [email protected].

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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