The IRC in Kyiv was established in 1994 to treat survivors of Soviet Russian torture, and Nazi concentration camps.
Its founder is Semyon Gluzman, a Ukrainian psychiatrist, human rights activist, and former political prisoner. In the 1970s, Gluzman was one of the first psychiatrists in the Soviet Union to oppose the practice of sending political dissidents to mental hospitals. He was sent to a gulag prison-camp for seven years.
Over the past three decades, IRC has used its medical expertise to help heal some 6,000 survivors. In 2021, the centre provided rehabilitation to 373 clients, most from Ukraine, but including survivors of torture and severe trauma from Belarus, Russia, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, among others.
In January this year, IRC reported 25 new clients had asked for psychological and medical assistance: 14 from Belarus; 11 from Russia; and nine from Ukraine.
The centre is based in Kiev’s Obolon suburb, the scene of heavy fighting in February 2022 as Russian troops attempt to occupy Ukraine’s capital. One week into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, IRC’s current director wrote:
“We were shocked. The Russian aggressor fires missiles at residential neighborhoods and refugee vehicles. Our clients, some who are over 90 years old, have not seen such cruelty, even during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War. An air alarm sounds every hour. Shelves in the stores are empty, there is no bottled water. But we are holding on in Kyiv. Closing the airspace over Ukraine would help, although we realize that this is impossible. Thank you for your moral support, it means a lot to us.”