Survivors Guilt Already Starting to Show Its Ugly Face to Ukrainians Who Are Lucky Enough to Flee

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The feeling of surviving something your close friends and family were unable to is incredibly difficult. For many of those fleeing Ukraine for neighboring countries, these feelings are overwhelming. Those who got out years ago are having these same feelings of guilt as well. The movements are fast-paced and often things are dropped, forgotten, or forced to be left behind.

Ludmila Sokol has been one of the refugees escaping, and she has seen a lot on her journey. “You should have seen things scattered along the road. Because the farther you carry things, the harder it is… I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but the only thing I know is that everything will be fine because Victoria Andreevna is nearby.”

This kind of determination in the face of such adversity is something many Ukrainians are feeling. However, it seems to largely be a mask to hide the pain they are in from the loss of their fellow Ukrainians. As the reports pour in of more casualties, people are left wondering if today will be the day. While women and children have been encouraged and aided in escaping to safety, men from 18-60 have been ordered to stay and fight.

For many, this was an easy order as they want to save their homeland and to ensure the Russians keep their hands off. Others watched as their wives and children are being loaded up and taken to safety and while they try to be brave, they find themselves breaking as they look at their crying children. These feelings are not uncommon, and that sense of dread and potential loss is carried with those separating very deeply.

As 1.2 million have now fled Ukraine, the UN is warning that the total may end up being 4 million people. As a response, the European Union has granted those fleeing Ukraine temporary protection and residency permits. These welcome tools can help make the adjustment much easier, no matter how temporary it could end up being.

Refugee camps set up in neighboring countries all have a similar feeling of dread, stress, and tension within them. As the adults attempt to keep the children happy, safe, fed, and occupied you can see the expressions on their faces. As news of deaths of their countrymen come in throughout the day, the looks of guilt are almost palpable upon their faces.

Even when the name of the people or even the town of their origin is unfamiliar, they all share in the responses. When that happens there is a small feeling of relief that it’s not your loved ones, but sorrow for them all the same. When it’s someone they know the guilt is even stronger. They cannot help but feel this way as they are safe and have opportunities to get their lives back, while those left behind are stuck facing down the Russians.

Guilt like this is never easy for even the most battle-hardened of people. These feelings can completely chew a person up inside, and often that leads to things like alcohol and narcotics dependency, lashing out at loved ones who also survived, and self-destruction. To avoid these feelings as well as the risk of facing the Russians again, many are taking up other countries on their invitations to come to a new land and to start fresh. Some have relocated to places like Germany, Bratislava, Mexico, and the Netherlands. These promises of safety are a welcome relief, and in time hopefully, this invasion will end, and they can begin healing the wounds of war.