A ‘majority’ of the Ukrainian war refugees who have immigrated to Australia are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, which is being exacerbated by their uncertain visa status, according to an Australian Ukraine expert.
Over eight million Ukrainians have fled their homeland since the invasion by Russia in March last year, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and around the globe.
Among those displaced, nearly 5,000 have made their way to Australia, the vast majority of them women and children.
Dr Sonia Mycak, a research fellow in Ukrainian Studies at the Australian National University and a director at the Ukrainian Association of Sydney, said she sees Ukrainian refugees regularly grappling with a variety of problems, including post-traumatic stress.
“All of the displaced Ukrainians living in Australia have encountered difficulties adapting to Australian society, many of them lacking fluency in English,” she said.
“Some have family members or friends who are already living here, hopefully they’re able to receive support in that way. But I feel safe in saying the majority are suffering from post traumatic stress.
“Bombs, missile attacks, rocket attacks, being fired upon – shedding this anxiety will take a considerable amount of time.”
While the temporary humanitarian visa offers some advantages… it’s only valid for three years.
Tetiana Pyshna, 35, and her daughter Anastasia, 13, fled their home in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, when the war erupted and now reside in St Leonards in Sydney.
“When the war started, we waited, thinking it wouldn’t last long,” Tetiana told Central News. “Ukrainians are strong and brave, and we believed the world would notice and understand that we won’t give up our land, we won’t give up our home.
“In the first few days of the war, some people were in shock. They had all their money in cards, so they couldn’t buy anything – not even medicine, or food. It was very scary; we followed the news every second.”
Tetiana left behind her husband, Anastasia’s father, and has no idea when they will see him again. Though they are safe for the time being in an apartment provided for by the Australian government, like many other Ukrainian refugees, they are concerned for their future.
Dr Mycak said Ukrainians residing in Australia suffer ongoing anxiety over the status of their humanitarian visas.
“While the temporary humanitarian visa offers some advantages, such as access to Medicare, it’s only valid for three years. Many are left wondering what will happen after that,” she said.
LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF THE INTERVIEW
Main image of Tetiana Pyshna by Frances Du.