This episode is part of a mini series exploring forced displacement as one of the many legacies of conflict. Alice interviews Hanna Dushkova, a Ukrainian lawyer and trained mediator who left Ukraine and travelled to Scotland as a refugee in July 2022.
Hanna qualified as a lawyer in 2013, and got her advocate’s licence in 2018. While working to resolve disputes between conflicting parties through the courts, Hanna became interested in mediation – as a constructive and much cheaper alternative to litigation – and in 2019 she qualified as a family mediator with the League of Mediators of Ukraine. Since then she has not only practised as a trained mediator herself but she has also delivered lots of mediation training to others. Among other initiatives, she set up a mediation hub in a local school; and she developed a business delivering workshops on communication skills, non-violent conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence, for adults and children.
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Hanna’s work began to pivot towards crisis mediation, particularly helping to resolve disputes between family members separated by the conflict. Then in July 2022 Hanna herself was displaced from her home in Odesa and came as a refugee to Scotland, along with her husband Vitalii Diakov. She is now based in Dundee, where she has been drawing on her expertise as a mediator to support other Ukrainian refugees housed in temporary accommodation alongside her.
In the episode Hanna discusses the power of mediation not just to resolve but also to prevent conflict. She discusses some of the 'soft skills' that mediation training helps people develop, such as active listening, emotional awareness and the ability to see disputes from multiple perspectives. These are important skills in peaceful times, but they become even more crucial in times of conflict. As Hanna explains, war brings all sorts of disruption and stress, leading to many more people experiencing family conflicts, financial disputes and personal trauma. She talks us through some of the cases she has dealt with since the war began, helping separated families to work together to find solutions amid the wider conflict of ongoing war.
Hanna also shares her own personal experience of waking up to discover that Russia had invaded on 24th February 2022, and the challenging decision-making that followed as she and other family members decided whether or not to leave or stay. She details the physical and emotional impacts of living in constant fear of bombardment and death; and talks us through the most difficult decision of her life, to pack up all her belongings, hopes and dreams and leave Ukraine for an unknown destination. Hanna shares her first impressions of Scotland, the support she has received, and the challenges that she and other refugees have faced. And she discusses the work she has begun in Dundee, putting her mediation skills to the service of other refugees, to help them cope with their displacement, develop new workplaces skills, and integrate with the local community. Hanna urges us to visualise forced migrants as people of great strength, who take on challenge after challenge and do not give up.
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can read more about Hanna and Vitalii's work to help Ukrainians deal with the trauma of forced migration, integrate into their new communities, and move forward with their lives on their websiteUkrainians Together. If you want to find out more about our wider work on Visualising Forced Migration, you can visit our project website.
Our theme music was composed by Jonathan Young.
The show was mixed by Zofia Guertin.