Researchers have found that individual experiences people encounter can alter the cells and behaviors in children. We possess multitude chemical compounds that can tell our epigenome what to do. Exposure to stress, diet, trauma in a parent, can trigger biological and health changes in their children and their children’s children. You see, our cells can affect whether a gene is activated and potentially pass down information between generations.
The trauma of exile experienced by millions of people around the world as they are forced flee their homelands with only what they can carry on their backs, leaving behind all that was familiar and known, will certainly have a great impact on generations to come.
A friend of mine who speaks the language and understands the culture, decided to go to Europe to volunteer with Ukrainian refugees. She is presently at the Polish-Ukrainian border keen to help women and children driven out of Ukraine. It’s mostly women and children who are flocking to safety as cities are being besieged, buildings destroyed, and civilian killed. The first thing my friend was guided to do by the organizers was to address people’s pressing needs. People arrived bewildered, she wrote, unable to take in any information. They needed to be fed, provided with first aid, given donated clothes, medication and translation. Where would they go next, the refugees were asked? Four million people had left Ukraine and border countries were getting crowded. European countries were open to them and they needed to think about moving on. But this was a thought too difficult for them to process right then. This ‘simple’ question felt overwhelming. So this day the aid agency focused on Denmark.
Many grandmothers and women with children had never travelled outside of their country. Some didn’t know where Denmark was located. Will there be potatoes, they asked. Would they be able to use their phones, call their husbands at the front? Would they be able to work? They need money to survive. After having spent time in underground shelters with no electricity or water, one child announced he would not go anywhere if the country didn’t have underground hiding places.
Senseless violence with such deliberate cruelty needs to stop. The trauma that is being caused by mass dispersion of people is shocking. War will cause tremendous transgenerational trauma and leave individuals with psychological problems which societies will need to address. People are able to heal from wreckage, but it takes enormous amount of energy, time and willingness to overcome tragedies of this magnitude.
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