Valentina Cherevatenko is a specialized consultant on social and labor issues, and a PhD holder in Political Science. In 1993, in Novocherkassk, together with like-minded people, she founded a regional organization of the NGO Union of Women of the Don (SZD). As President of this organization, she focuses her efforts on peacekeeping activities and reconciliation of the Chechen and Russian peoples. She has organized several seminars dealing with the issues of healing the psychological trauma of the victims of war.
Valentina Cherevatenko often remembers her first three-day seminar–psychological healing of participants in armed conflicts. Among those present were servicemen, who had taken part in the armed conflicts, as well as Chechen and Russian women, who had lost their husbands and sons in the war. Valentina felt a growing tension and hatred among the people in the audience. A confrontation between the Russians and the Chechens seemed inevitable. Gradually, however, the two sides began to understand that, although the tragedies they had experienced were impossible to forget, they had to move on and stop the vicious circle of hatred. Sharing their sorrows with each other, they freed themselves from their pain. In one of the activities during the seminar, each participant had to draw a picture. Valentina especially remembers two drawings. One of them was the drawing of a Chechen woman, a mother of three children. She drew a beautiful birch tree with a broken trunk. Its branches were still alive. Out of the broken trunk, drops of tears and blood were pouring. Near the birch, there were three little girls. The drops symbolized the ebbing life of the mother leaving behind her very blood to sustain the lives of her daughters. The other picture was the drawing made by a Russian officer. He spent a long time choosing his crayons, but when he showed his work, everyone simply saw a white sheet. “How else can one draw a void?” he asked. It was not until the last day of the seminar that everything changed. The people suddenly began to speak to each other. They showed each other photos of their children, spoke about their families; their hatred seemed to have vanished. Valentina still keeps in touch with the participants of this seminar, for it provided proof that forgiveness and reconciliation still remain possible for those filled with mutual hate.
Soyuz zhenshchin Dona (Union of Women of the Don)