All this past week, the Russian press has focused on the horrible disaster which occurred Saturday morning: the crash of the chartered Airbus-321. Just to summarize briefly, the bare facts, quoting from an English-language source:
Flight 9268 to St Petersburg crashed in Egypt’s Sinai peninsular shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday morning. All 224 crew and passengers, many of them holidaymakers from St Petersburg, were killed in the worst single disaster in Russian aviation history.
While it is not definitively known yet what brought the plane down (possibility of terrorism – such as a bomb brought onboard), informed opinion is trending that the plane broke apart mid-air from structural damage.
In any case, not having anything to contribute to that particular discussion, what I want to offer today is this piece, about psychological counselors who are helping families and relatives of the victims.
Human grief is a powerful emotion. So powerful that sometimes it requires special people, with special training, to help people get through it. For the dead, there is no more hope. But for the living – life must go on.
Grief Counselors at Work
In St. Petersburg yesterday, the process began, of families coming to identify, and claim, the bodies of their loved ones. The Ministry of Emergency Situations [for American readers: this would be like Russia’s version of FEMA] has offered emergency psychological assistance to the grieving relatives. The Ministry reports, that over 400 requests have been made for grief counseling. A team of psychologists is on duty at the Pulkovo Airport, the destination of the flights carrying in the bodies of the victims.
SUMMARY OF THE VIDEO PIECE from Russian TV
Nikolai Sokolov (Correspondent for “Russia-24” channel) delivers audio-feed from Petersburg. Images show people creating memorials, bringing flowers and stuffed toys, lighting candles. The citizens of Petersburg have been particularly touched, and saddened, by this tragedy.
Interview with Sergei Ivanov, who is President Putin’s Chief of Staff. Ivanov expresses his sincere condolences to the victims and their loved ones, to the people of St. Petersburg, and to all the citizens of the Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine, for their terrible loss.
While the municipal morgue in Petersburg has already begun the sombre yet necessary work of processing the remains and attempting to identify people from their DNA, the psychological branch of the medical profession is attempting to cope with the heavy burden of grief experienced by the families. Some people are so depressed, that they might even need to be hospitalized. Most difficult cases include children who are left as orphans; and pensioners who may have lost a source of financial support. Their needs include not just grief counseling, but also practical help with formulating new documents to receive government assistance. Anybody who has ever been depressed, knows how difficult it is to deal with these mundane issues at a time like that; and how important it is, to have somebody there to help.
The need for social workers and case managers, to help with this enormous job, is very high. Additional social workers will be brought in from other regions, to help with the caseload.
END OF VIDEO
To conclude: the eyes of the world are on Russia. And generally not friendly eyes, and not even sympathetic eyes, as we have seen from some of the crueler elements of Western commentary.
But nonetheless, it is up to the Russian authorities to prove that they can cope with a tragedy of this scale, and provide all of the public assistance that is necessary to the families of the victims: Both practical and psychological asssitance.