Abigail Klein Leichman
June 21, 2023

On Sunday (June 18), Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska landed in Israel for four days of meetings with mental-health and rehabilitation experts from NATAL: Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center, the Israel Trauma Coalition, Metiv Israel Psychotrauma Center and Sheba Medical Center, among others.

She was invited by Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog when both were in London accompanying their husbands at the coronation of King Charles III. The two women have a mutual interest in trauma care and rehabilitation.

Zelenska is interested in adapting Israeli resilience programs to help Ukrainians suffering trauma from the ongoing war with Russia.

Ukraine’s First Lady meets Israeli trauma experts to discuss resilience
Olena Zelenska at a meeting of Israel mental-health professionals. Photo by Igal Slavin

“NATAL, Israel Trauma Coalition, IsraAID – the names of these Israeli organizations are already familiar to thousands of our specialists who have undergone trainings there within the All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program [that I initiated a year ago],” Zelenska posted on Facebook during her trip, noting that IsraAID is working in 14 Ukrainian hospitals.

“Today I was able to personally express my gratitude to the representatives of these organizations and my colleague Michal Herzog, for whose support the training is taking place. Invaluable help – thanks to which we bring Ukrainians back to life.”

Ukraine’s First Lady meets Israeli trauma experts to discuss resilience
The Israel Trauma Coalition is doing ongoing training of Ukrainian professionals. Photo: screenshot

Zelenska said many Ukrainians are suffering from PTSD, “not only the military, but also civilians of cities and villages, starting from children who have seen the death of their parents, to adults in whom Russian shelling killed an entire family…

“How to live as a survivor and believe in life again? Israel and its psychological support system gives this answer – the experience of a country that has lived under missile fire for decades,” Zelenska wrote.

“Ukrainian specialists have been studying the best help tactics with the help of Israeli health workers for a year, because in Israel, children also know what air [raid] alarms are, what it is like to run for cover and study in a bomb [shelter]. But with quality psychological support, they also know how to survive trauma, overcome fears and move on.”

Zelenska and Herzog toured the Mordechai Shani Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine Center at Sheba Medical Center, as well as the child psychiatry department of Sheba’s Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital.

Ukraine’s First Lady meets Israeli trauma experts to discuss resilience
Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska and Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog meeting with a young patient at Sheba Medical Center’s Safra Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy of Sheba

Zelenska said she hopes to “create new programs in collaboration with our experts from Ukraine and your experts from Israel to strengthen our healthcare system, particularly in the field of mental health. We need programs that support mental health and assist in the rehabilitation of injured citizens, including children, adults, and the elderly. Our healthcare system cannot cope alone.”

She also said she hopes to create 20 resilience centers in Ukraine following the Israel Trauma Coalition model.

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