"You have given me freedom"

Galina had an important post at the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya. Dunya is an instructor at the front. Yulia is trying to save cultural life in Kherson. All these women experienced the war in Ukraine and now have to come to terms with what they have experienced. But how do they manage to overcome the horror and move on?
Much has been said and told about the war in Ukraine. We all know the facts. But what about the stories and faces behind the numbers?
From Ukraine to Romania
The United Methodist Church in Romania invited 17 women to Cluj-Napoca, Romania, for 14 days in October so they could take time out and gain strength and confidence. These women had experienced traumatizing events during the war. During their days in Cluj, they were able to talk about their experiences. They participated in group therapies, but also in individual sessions with psychologists. The need for such talks to cope with trauma was great, much greater than initially thought. In addition, the pastor of the United Methodist congregation in Cluj-Napoca was also on hand for spiritual support. The women also exchanged ideas, attended events, or had massages.
Giving form to the unspeakable
An important aspect was also the inclusion of art. The women had themselves photographed or had their faces painted by a body painting artist in order to make their stories and experiences visible. Because sometimes words are missing.
Masha, a soldier, writes: ".... You’ve done the almost impossible in these days. You gave me freedom. Of course, each of us is a free person, but not everyone is fortunate enough to truly feel freedom. (...) These two weeks won’t leave me with just pleasant memories and beautiful photos but will leave me with a taste of real spiritual freedom. I’m grateful for that. Something in me has changed thanks to you, and I want it to stay that way. Even without asking ‘what exactly?’ Let it stay the way it is for now."

Focus on women leaders
The women who came to Cluj - mainly women in leadership positions - had arrived from war zones. They have long since returned there to guide others and give them hope. One of the women, for example, distributes relief supplies to civilians living along the front lines. These people live predominantly underground.
"(...) A challenging job with myself is ahead of me, but when the heart longs for change, they will definitely happen." Mascha sums up.
What remains
The project "Faces of Courage" will be reported: There will be an exhibition in the near future in Cluj-Napoca (and later, whenever possible, in other cities in Romania), plus an illustrated book and a short documentary. Because these courageous women are contemporary witnesses of a history that we must not forget.
Author: Danka Bogdanovic, Connexio develop, Zurich (Switzerland) – based on a report of Anca Beu, UMC, Cluj-Napoca (Romania)
"Faces of Courage" is a comprehensive initiative that not only documents and highlights the courageous stories of trauma survivors, but also provides a space for emotional healing.