Staunton, Apr. 17 – “Up to now,” the war in Ukraine has not led to the increase in the number of orphans in Russian society that massive population losses in World War II did, Svetlana Stroganova says; but because of social changes and the impact of PTSD on children and adults, one can only say “up to now.”
As war losses mount, there will be more orphans, the head of the charitable organization Children of the Nation says, both because parents will have died and because they and children will suffer in other ways from the consequences of the fighting. The influx of Ukrainian children into Russia only adds to this (verstka.media/interview-svetlana-stroganova).
There is also the tragic case of children who are taken from their families by the Russian authorities not because they are at risk of physical or mental abuse but only because they oppose the war. Such children are put at serious risk of psychological damage for the rest of their lives, Stroganova says.
Obviously, children at risk must be rescued; but putting these same children in orphanages is not the way to go. Those confined to such institutions are mentally shattered and almost never acquire the habits necessary for an independent life. Indeed, “there shouldn’t be children’s homes of the kind that now exist in Russia.”
The number of children confined in orphanages has not risen by a lot. In 2021, there were a few more than 35,000 in Russia; at the end of 2022, there were 38,800. And many don’t see this as a problem; but it isn’t only “only for the time being,” the activist says, because many taken from their families aren’t counted as inmates of orphanages.
“Why do I say ‘for the time being,’” Stroganova says rhetorically. “Because there is PTSD; and we all as a society will most likely feel it to one degree or another. It will affect not only those who return from the front but also their families and acquaintances. This will then resonate with everyone.”
“Since PTSD is a delayed thing, after some time, we will get an increase in violence everywhere, including in families with regard to children,” she continues. “And this can become a factor that will lead to an increase in the number of children in the orphanage system or to an increase in the number of dysfunctional families where violence will be recorded.”
The Russian authorities should intervene to help children but do so in ways that will keep families together. Thus, the powers should fund parents who need help paying their bills or supervising their children rather than allowing parents to dump their children in state institutions. The latter course costs everyone far more.
Doing the right thing often costs the government less, but at present, only a few governors are showing the will to do that. If more did, more Russian children would be protected, and more Russians, including the authorities, would have more money to spend on other things.