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People from the former Yugoslavia and their lived experiences of war, exile and resettlement Djukic, Branka


The latest war in the former Yugoslavia officially ended with the Dayton Agreement in December of 1995. As the country disintegrated, people of the former Yugoslavia suffered enormous losses. One whole way of living disappeared. Many of these people were forced to leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere. In most of these cases, there was no way back and people had to resettle in other countries. To live through and experience war, exile, and resettlement implies experiencing multiple traumas. Over the last two decades, researchers became interested in studying positive psychological experiences of Post-traumatic Growth (PTG) in people who lived through traumatic life events. Also, psychological process of meaning making out of adverse events occupied researchers’ interest. These have been attempts to broaden our perspectives on experiencing trauma, in addition to studying psychological distress. This study attempted to find potential evidence of post-traumatic growth, psychological distress, and meaning making process in participants’ stories in order to verify if these concepts are viable for sample of people from the former Yugoslavia. Five participants from the former Yugoslavia, 2 men and 3 women, were asked to share their stories about their personal lived experience of war, exile, and resettlement. These stories were explored and analyzed in order to see how people construct their stories and make meaning out of their life experiences. Also, the stories were scrutinized for evidence of any positive or negative changes in the aftermath of severely disturbing events. The main question asked in this research was "How do people from the former Yugoslavia describe their lived experiences of war, exile, and resettlement?” Throughout the interviews, it became obvious that these people were still experiencing a significant amount of emotional distress and that negative psychological effects resulting from these life experiences were still present. Several themes in this study were common for all participants: negative psychological effects, walking shells, and dreaming of return. No evidence of experiencing PTG was found with these participants who still struggle to make sense out of these events. This might indicate that the concept of PTG should not be readily assumed when working with clients from this world region and clients who experienced these multiple adverse life events.

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