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War is felt for generations.

The effects of the war in Ukraine will not be over when the last shot is fired, or a peace treaty signed. It will linger, seen and unseen, in the form of intergenerational trauma- the body and mind remembering the damage long after the person is safe. The present colored by the past. Many survivors focus on rebuilding the physical- their broken bones, homes, towns, schools, jobs and lives, leaving the internal wounds ignored because of how insurmountable the task seems.

My parents were survivors of conflict - the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a much shorter conflict but traumatic and warlike none the less. It was not until I wrote my memoir, The Hungarian Girl that it occurred to me that they…and I, could be affected by their wartime trauma. As young teens, they woke to tanks rumbling down the main street and the sound of shots fired nearby. They experienced being on the run in the dark, the fear of leaving everything behind, of hunger, pain and the unknown.

Today we know there are solutions for dealing with this type of trauma. It starts with sharing the secrets and the stories we hold inside, discussing what we faced and its impact, identifying triggers and behaviors that seem out of line with the present.

I was lucky enough to be born in America. The trauma I experienced is not a direct result of war, but it is not inconceivable to imagine that my parents were different people because of their wartime experiences. They are long gone, too late for them to heal, but maybe…just maybe… I can help myself - and others - to break the grip of intergenerational trauma.

For an essay on how some Ukrainians are dealing with the war please see:

My memoir “The Hungarian Girl” will be published by She Writes Press In June 2024. (The name may change.)

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