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Helping refugee children to adapt to life abroad

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Published on Tuesday, 20 September 2022

As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many scholars and scientists have left the country. More than 30 Ukrainian researchers displaced by the war have temporarily joined the University of Luxembourg mainly as research fellows and in some cases under temporary contracts funded by the FNR. In this series of interviews, we briefly present the researchers and their work.

Oksana Senyk is an Associate Professor at Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv, Ukraine. She is now a Visiting Researcher at the Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences of the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences at the University of Luxembourg.

What is your research field and which specific topic are you working on?

Normally my research interests lie in the field of psychology of time; these are topics of time perspective, subjective time, chronotypes etc. However, with the beginning of the war more urgent topics came to the fore and now together with my colleague from UCU, Anastasiia Shyroka, and my supervisor here at the University of Luxembourg, Anna Kornadt, we are investigating the mental health of Ukrainian displaced children who have experienced the war in various ways, in order to better understand the key factors and ways to balance them to preserve the mental health of our children.

What would you like to achieve in your research work here, in Luxembourg?

I was surprised to hear how many Ukrainian families were hosted by welcoming Luxembourgish citizens. Often in research that covers many European countries, Luxembourg is not considered due to its small number of citizens. We thought here was an excellent opportunity to include Luxembourg in our research on the mental health of the Ukrainian displaced children, many of whom might stay in Luxembourg for a long time. We believe that with the help of our research we will be able to answer important questions of how to better help Ukrainian children, how to find a proper approach to balance their mental health and thus, to ensure their stable psychological development, in spite of all the difficult experiences they have been through. Also, my supervisor here is a highly qualified professional in the methodology of psychological scientific research and with her expertise we hope to strengthen our findings and assure their correctness, and so the applicability of the results.

Will your research have a potential impact on people’s everyday life?

The main aim of our study is to further the understanding of the key factors of displaced children's mental health to ensure their psychological well-being and stable development. When we receive the results, we plan to communicate them to professionals in the field of social work and psychotherapy who currently support Ukrainian refugees in different European countries to help them enhance the quality of care they provide.

What do you think is the biggest contribution your work can bring to the University of Luxembourg or to Luxembourg in general?

The biggest contribution will be the study of this specific group of people, the Ukrainian refugees, who are part of the life and space of Luxembourg nowadays. This is a new reality we have and need to face, need to deal with, and so it is important to understand these people. Another contribution, hopefully, will be a joint paper about the results of the conducted research. And last but not least - I truly believe that my work here is just a beginning of a collaboration between psychologists of the University of Luxembourg and the Ukrainian Catholic University which will have a fruitful continuation in the future.

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