I participate in a joint program with Ukraine and the United States that trains and certifies Ukrainian mental health professionals to address the vast trauma of war and its aftermath. The certificate program includes extensive teaching, learning, training, and supervision. American and Ukrainian mental health academics and professionals act as teachers and mentors. This takes place over Zoom, with the eight hour time difference. A translator is always present translating from Ukrainian to English and back again.
With increasing Russian missile attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure, utilities are always uncertain. Power blackouts are frequent. Wifi service is often interrupted. For example, in the case of my regular translator who lives Kiev, the electricity was out in her apartment building this week. To find Wifi service for our meeting, she drove to a nearby service station to find a signal. When that didn’t work, she cruised in her car until finding a community Wifi. Her car is her office, equipped with laptop and auxiliary batteries. More than once she has Zoomed in from a parking garage outside a hospital.
I work regularly with a supervisee in the program, and yesterday the electricity was out in his office, so he had to drive to a metro station to catch Wifi to Zoom in for a meeting, then back to his office to meet with a first-time client in the darkened offices. When we Zoomed in the evening, he was back at his apartment, that did have electricity at the moment. He said that utility crews are exercising super-human effort to get everything back online after attacks. “Imagine,” he said, “we are a European country in the 21st century and we are actually uncertain if we will have electricity, heat, water.”
These counselors deal with all of the garden variety mental health challenges anyone would see anywhere, and all of the trauma that accompanies war: fear of attack, separation from family, deaths and losses, relocations, and deprivations. Like chaplains serving in the front lines of the military ministering to their troops, or mental health workers in the midst of a disaster, these persons are in the midst of crisis, chaos, suffering, and vast uncertainty. And yet they stay. They serve. With resolve.
These are liminal guides, serving in extreme liminal circumstances, among a collective of persons experiencing complex social liminality.
My role, minor as it is, involves walking along side a liminal guide who is liminal himself. In addition to whatever insight might be shared, I am striving most to stand in solidarity, walk alongside, share the common humanity, to dwell in the land of deep darkness until the light shines. Kyrie Eleison. Господи помилуй