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LCC International University > News and Events > Navigating Change and Transforming Trauma – A Ukrainian Refugee Workshop

Navigating Change and Transforming Trauma – A Ukrainian Refugee Workshop


A learning journey on the wisdom of trauma occurred February 10-11, 2023. The 2-day workshop for Ukrainian refugees on “Navigating Change and Transforming Trauma” was held at the Vilnius Ukrainian Center. The Vilnius Ukrainian Center continues to serve the public good as they assist refugees in integration into life in Lithuania. For the participants, they gathered to learn safe ways for collectively sharing and witnessing the impact of trauma, building resiliency, and living well in new places. It was a time to care for bodies, hearts and minds impacted by the Russian-Ukraine war which is going on in their homeland. 22 participants were invited to walk a path together that explored safe ways of healing, witnessing, and living with the realities of the trauma in their lives. 3 co-facilitators from the Center for Dialogue and Conflict Transformation at LCC International University led the workshop. Naomi Enns (LCC instructor in conflict transformation studies and the center director) remarks, “we were honored to witness the fears and strengths shared by these courageous men and women. These participants show steps of resiliency daily as they continue to live with trauma and its shadow over their lives while waiting for the war, they fled to be over”. We simply offered tools for understanding trauma’s impact and skills for building community.

Refugees from war encounter multiple layers of trauma. Engaging in difficult conversations, while learning more about collective and individual pain was part of the group’s learning journey. Together they built skills for life while working at finding new ways to live with the struggles, the heavy stones of memories carried, and questions that trauma from displacement and war has brought. A key component of the workshop was centered in the healing power of storytelling and understanding the ways in which trauma can touch our brains, emotions, and actions daily. Strengthening skills in ways to acknowledge and name burdens, witnessing well the grief of others, and transforming pain rather than transferring it is critical for healing, both individually and communally. Naomi DeBoer , as a trauma counselor at LCC and co-facilitator, remarked how “Our time together reminded me of the power of empathy as a gift of healing; One woman told me “Although she had told her story many times, this was the first time she felt 'understood' {for what she had gone through}. True empathy leaves us feeling seen and soothed despite the pain of our lived experience”.

Impressed by how quickly the participants formed a supportive community during the workshop, co- facilitator, Douglas Enns, points out how “the level of trust was evident as a number of individuals felt safe to share about their profound experiences of loss.” At the workshop, individuals found the opportunity to strengthen their own resiliency and name personal strengths born out of pain. Many from the group have found ways to support other displaced individuals in Lithuania; finding meaningful engagement with either work, volunteering at the Ukraine Center or helping others to adjust to their new reality. A demonstration of their resiliency. The workshop also included times of laughter and fun as participants got to know each other in different ways. Douglas Enns said that he “felt welcome when one of the workshop participants invited me to join their lunch circle saying, “We’re a team. Come eat with us.”

Recognizing how life is like a river that continues to flow forward even as we experience the good and the harmful traumatic responses and memories that flow into our lives is part of learning to integrate and transform trauma in daily life. Individuals expressed to all the facilitators that the topics covered in the workshop were just what they needed to hear.

On Saturday afternoon, participants such as Ukrainian Yelyzaveta Drach, laid stones down along a river symbolizing the traumas they carry and the healing path they are on. As the translator and participant, she remarked on finding a “sense of calmness since leaving her native city” and “ I got a crucial experience and the most important gift which is the ability to listen and to be heard.” Healing of trauma within community and transformation happens when we find safety, soothing, and a sense of self. It was evident that these qualities emerged throughout this journey as we looked into the impact and wisdom of trauma.

By Naomi Enns (CDCT Director)

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