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When war comes home

4 April 2017

All too often, children are the innocent victims of war. Even those far from the battlefield, waiting to welcome returning soldiers home, can be left with scars. But just how does combat trauma in a parent affect a child’s development? PhD candidate Anna Denejkina is drawing on her own experience, and that of others, to find out.

The Volga River, the largest river in Europe, flowing past Ulyanovsk, Russia

Anna Denejkina, UTS PhD candidate in the Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesAnna Denejkina, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, is investigating how combat-related trauma suffered by soldiers during the Soviet-Afghan war (1979–1989) may be transmitted from the parent to their children.

The research includes interviews and surveys with the children of Russian and Ukrainian veterans as well as Denejkina, whose father was a captain in the Soviet army during the war, exploring her own familial history.

It’s a journey that’s led Denejkina through the ethics of auto-ethnography (the study of one’s self) and all the way back to the Soviet-Afghan war. Today, the PhD candidate says, “I’m looking at how combat-related trauma transmits from parent to child, but I’m specifically looking at the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan and speaking with veterans and the children of returned Soviet veterans to see if there’s any link in the trauma being transmitted.

But for now, she hopes, “that when I come to the end of my research I’ll have a body of work that could potentially be used to influence social policy — how veterans are treated when they finish their tours and how combat-related trauma is treated, because when you put children into that equation, if there aren’t programs and funding allocated for their support and veterans are just left to their own devices, the veterans aren’t the only people who are going to suffer. There’s a chance their children will also face the repercussions of what happened while at war.”

Read the full article on UTS:Newsroom

If your parents fought in the Soviet-Afghan war (1979–1989) you can participate in Denejkina’s research by completing her survey online in Russian at uts.ac/2lfego8 or in English at uts.ac/2miBElD

A monument honouring and listing the names of Ulyanovsk soldiers who died in Afghanistan, 1979-1989
A monument honouring and listing the names of Ulyanovsk soldiers who died in Afghanistan, 1979-1989