Tetiana Stoianova holds a PhD in Law from the University of Odessa. As a former Ukrainian refugee, who came to France as part of the PAUSE programme (Programme for the emergency reception of scientists in exile), she received a research fellowship from the Foundation for her project: ‘Improving the integration of Ukrainian refugees in France and the reduction of psychological abuse.’

What brought you to respond to this call for projects in France?

TS: Having fled Ukraine at the outbreak of the war in February 2022, I found myself in a refugee situation. I volunteered to work with the Red Cross in Croatia, my first host country. Then, I submitted several proposals in response to a programme supporting academicians in exile. One of these projects led me to collaborate with Hans Rocha, a lecturer in Social Psychology at the Université Grenoble Alpes. He advised me to respond to the Foundation’s recent call for applications.

Your study focuses on psychological abuse and especially loneliness. Can you elaborate on this approach?

For the past two years, my field of research has focused on domestic violence – both legal and psychological. In fact, I have dual qualifications: the equivalent of a law degree and a doctorate in psychology. I first dealt with psychological abuse in Ukraine as part of a legal support study for victims. I found that loneliness or the fear of loneliness was a factor that could conceivably lead to psychological abuse. Some people are willing to accept harmful, humiliating, and demeaning relationships in order to avoid experiencing social isolation. This is a result of the fact that some needs can only be satisfied through social relationships.

How relevant do you see this approach when protecting Ukrainian refugees?

Being a refugee is traumatic in and of itself. Existing social ties are brutally severed, and the exiles find themselves isolated in a setting that is totally foreign to them. This situation increases the likelihood of experiencing abuse. It is for this reason that I set out to evaluate the degree of loneliness among Ukrainian refugees. It is obvious that refugees encounter multiple difficulties related to housing, health, work, food, money, etc. But loneliness is a neglected issue that can irreparably impair one’s health and trigger vulnerability to psychological abuse.

Top photo: @Arie Kievit