As a team of social researchers and analysts, we have been studying and analyzing the impact of war on Ukrainian society since the first weeks of the full-scale war. In March 2022, we conducted our first study to capture the thoughts, feelings and actions of people in Ukraine during the first two weeks after February 24, 2022. In order to record the dynamics of changes in emotional states, decision making, and adaptation of everyday life to the conditions of war, we conducted another wave of the study every three months after that. So the second wave of the study was conducted in May 2022, focusing on the first three months of the full-scale war; the third wave was conducted in August 2022, focusing on the six months of the full-scale war; in November 2022, we conducted the fourth wave, dedicated to nine months of the full-scale war. In February–March 2023, we conducted the fifth wave to capture the impact of further developments and the changes caused by them. The results of its analysis are presented in this report.

The research team is grateful to everyone who has filled out the questionnaire and to those who have shared it. We also thank everyone whose support enabled us to prepare this text, particularly all people who have made donations to Cedos’s work, as well as our donors. This report has been prepared as a part of the Think Tank Development Initiative in Ukraine, implemented by the International Renaissance Foundation with financial support by the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine. This study was also supported as a part of Documenting Ukraine project financed by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.


The goal of the study was to capture (in progress, directly while the events were unfolding, rather than in retrospect), describe and generalize the experiences of war in Ukraine as well as trends of changes in these experiences over time.

The subject of the study are experiences of war in Ukrainian society.

For the purposes of this study, we include everyone who identifies with Ukrainian society in the category of Ukrainian society. We do not exclude people who have no Ukrainian citizenship; people who have not lived in Ukraine for a while but who identify with Ukraine and Ukrainian society. We do not limit the subject of our research to civilians but also include combatants; however, we suppose that the latter have limited representation in the sample.

The focus of this study is the stage of the Russian-Ukrainian war known as the “full-scale war,” which began on February 24, 2022, as a result of the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Even though the war began back in 2014, the scale of its impact on Ukrainian society changed and grew significantly as a result of the full-scale invasion, which was what motivated us to start working on this study.

The study is exploratory, meaning that its goal is primarily to describe reality rather than look for connections and explain causes. Since the goal of this study is to identify possible trends in experiences rather than assess them quantitatively, we chose a qualitative approach, just like for the previous waves. This allowed us to conduct a study with a similar methodology and to be able to compare the findings.

In order to collect the data, we used a self-report questionnaire designed in Google Forms. As the previous waves of the study showed, this option is simple and convenient for respondents because it has no temporal limitations, allows for non-mandatory answers, and allows the respondents to interrupt answering the questionnaire at any moment. Information about the study and the link to the form to be filled out was shared on Cedos social media pages (including via targeted advertising from the Cedos Facebook page), through the Cedos mailing list, on the researchers’ personal pages, and in personal communication.

Since this study of the experiences of the full-scale war by Ukrainian society is the fifth such study, we call it the “fifth wave.” Despite this, the questionnaire only partially repeated the previous ones, because the situation in Ukraine had changed by February–March 2023 compared to November 2022 (the “fourth wave”), August 2022 (the “third wave”), May 2022 (the “second wave”), and March 2022 (the “first wave”). For example, after a year of the full-scale war, it seemed less relevant to us to repeatedly ask about the most important decisions since February 24, 2022, adaptations to life during the war, housing difficulties and volunteering. Instead, questions about blackouts, air raid warnings and mass bombings, career development and changes in the experiences of war over time had become much more pressing. In view of this, we adapted the questionnaire and focused on questions that had become more important, given the developments and changes in the experiences of war over time. Nevertheless, some questions remained in the same or slightly modified form to maintain continuity.

The questionnaire contained questions that correlated with five dimensions associated with different spheres of human life through which we consider the experiences of war within this study:

  • bodily dimension: questions about everyday life and routines;
  • psychological dimension: questions about emotional experiences and feelings;
  • social dimension: questions about remote communication, reflections on the experience of forced displacement;
  • economic dimension: questions about the impact of blackouts, air raid warnings, bombings on work; changing ideas about one’s future job or occupation; key concerns;
  • public dimension: questions about changes in the ideas about the connection to Ukraine, attitudes to mobilization to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, thoughts about the course of the war.

In addition, the questionnaire contained final questions to determine the sociodemographic characteristics of the respondents.

The questionnaire opened with an explanation about the goal of the study and the confidentiality of the collected information, as well as a warning that it contained questions on sensitive topics. In addition, the questionnaire included information about the services and platforms providing free-of-charge mental health aid and links to them. Most of the questions were open-ended, so the respondents were not limited to pre-set options. This way, we tried to encourage the respondents to describe their own experiences, motivations and feelings and to answer at more length.

Before the beginning of the survey, we conducted a pretest of the developed toolkit. The pretest was conducted among the acquaintances of the research team members. The main goal of the pretest was to find out whether the question formulations were clear, whether the question formulations and the process of filling out the questionnaire provoked any psychological discomfort, and to check the average time it took to fill out the questionnaire.

The survey was conducted on February 21–March 13, 2023. 435 respondents participated in the survey during that time.

This report presents an analysis of the survey findings for all the questions which the study focused on, except for the question about attitudes towards mobilization, since this question is sensitive while the full-scale war is still underway.

Research limitations

While conducting this study, we faced a number of challenges in terms of research methodology and ethics. The ways we chose to respond to these challenges determined the limitations of the research.

  • The research sample is not representative of the population of Ukraine. The distribution of sociodemographic characteristics (such as gender, age, financial situation, size of settlement and region of residence, etc.) among the respondents does not reflect the distribution of these characteristics among the entire population of Ukraine. In view of this, the survey findings cannot be extrapolated to the entire population. In our reports on the findings of the survey, we describe experiences which really exist and which we were able to record. At the same time, this description of experiences is not exhaustive. The chosen methodology does not allow us to draw conclusions about how widespread these experiences are. Although we do make certain observations regarding the possible trends in the differences between the answers of people who belong to different social groups, they are not definite evidence of the existence of certain patterns, only hypotheses which require further research.
  • The chosen method of data collection and questionnaire distribution could have affected the non-representation in the study sample of people who had no internet access in the period when the survey was conducted, as well as those who have no skills of using the Google Forms platform.
  • Due to security risks, lack of free time and potential lack of access to the internet or equipment, people who are currently in the occupied territories, in battle zones and areas of intensive shelling or close to them, as well as combatants can be underrepresented in the study sample. People who belong to these categories are present in the sample, but, given the security risks, the questionnaire does not contain any questions aiming to identify such respondents. In view of this, we cannot estimate their share in the sample or compare their answers to the answers of other respondents.
  • Compared to the first wave of the study, in the fifth wave we managed to collect the experiences of fewer people (435 versus 555), so the dynamics of filling out the questionnaire were lower. We associate this with the state of general fatigue among the respondents and the fact that compared to the first week of the full-scale war, calls to participate in various studies of the impact of the war had become more common and evoked less interest. At the same time, the number of respondents who participated in the fifth wave of the study is higher than in the second (335), third (320), and fourth (352) waves. This can be linked to the fact that the survey coincided with the date marking one year since the full-scale invasion, which affected the desire to reflect on the experience of the war. In order to have the questionnaire filled out more times, in the second, third, fourth, and fifth waves we used targeted ads from the Cedos Facebook page aimed for the followers of the page and their friends. This target audience for paid distribution was also intended to make the sample more similar to the one we had during the first wave due to organic distribution (without advertising).
  • Based on our experience of the previous waves of the survey, we employed a number of steps to ensure better representation among the respondents of social groups that were underrepresented in the previous waves (men, older people, low-income people). For this purpose, the form included a request for the respondents to ask, if possible, an older friend or relative to participate in the survey. In addition, we used targeted advertising from the Cedos Facebook page with a link to the questionnaire and a call to share one’s experiences which was aimed for the target groups (men and women of different ages, older men and women, men of different ages).
  • Even though we shared the form using the same communication channels and sent links to it to the participants of the previous waves of the study who had agreed to participate in the next waves and left their contacts, the samples of the different waves were not the same. The forms were not identical either, although they did include a number of similar or the same questions. In view of this, the possibilities for comparing different waves of the study are limited. We compare them wherever it is relevant and appropriate. However, comparisons of this kind are not definite evidence for the existence of certain patterns, but rather hypotheses about possible trends which require further research.
  • The self-reported questionnaire with a significant number of open-ended questions presupposed the method of recording one’s own experience and feelings in writing. A limitation or consequence of choosing this method is the fact that recording one’s own experiences in writing inevitably leads to higher narrativization of the story and encourages one to rationalize their experiences, which was taken into account while analyzing the data.
  • The data collection took place in the time period which included the date that marked one year since the beginning of the full-scale war. While sharing the questionnaire, we also referred to this memorable date as an opportunity to reflect on one’s own experience during the year and share it by participating in the study. The date of February 24, as well as the mention of it in the distribution of the questionnaire, could have affected both the number of collected answers and the answers themselves.
  • The engagement of the researchers, that is, the fact that they themselves are, to different extents, experiencing the full-scale war and forced displacement, can be both an advantage and a limitation of the study. On the one hand, it can facilitate more reflection and sensitivity to the obtained data as a result of comparing them to personal experiences. On the other hand, it can produce certain preset analytical frameworks which affect the interpretation of the obtained data. In order to avoid cognitive or experiential distortion, the work with the obtained data was distributed among the researchers both at the stage of analysis and interpretation and at the stage of mutual editing.

This study is not comprehensive. Its findings record the variety of experiences of war and their modification during a certain period of time, but they cannot be extrapolated to the entire population of Ukraine and the entire period of the war, because the diversity of experiences of the war is larger and more multifaceted. They require many further studies, from representative nationwide research to studies focused on specific topics and social groups.


Based on the survey we conducted, we can draw the following conclusions about the experiences and feelings in Ukrainian society in February–March 2023.

Compared to the previous waves of the study, the respondents were more likely to direct their thoughts towards the future rather than the past. This applied both to their concerns and to the emotions and thoughts about their personal connection to Ukraine.

In this wave, the respondents mostly felt the same concerns as the participants of the fourth and the third waves. The key concerns still included those related to the war, one’s own safety and the safety of one’s family and friends, and the concern about the uncertainty of the future. At the same time, the tendency to worry about the future of the economic and political situation in Ukraine after the war was more prominent in this wave. Other concerns included problems with job search, employment, finances, personal relationships and health.

Separation from loved ones was an experience shared by the majority of the study participants at some point over the course of the full-scale war. The separation has mostly negatively affected communication with family and friends. The respondents mentioned that the separation had worsened their mental and emotional state, they felt sad, helpless, afraid, lonely and isolated. The situation was especially difficult for those whose family or loved ones remained in the occupied territories, areas near the frontline, or areas with a lot of missile strikes, because contact with them was unstable. The respondents also noted the lack of in-person communication, meetings with loved ones, and the inability to spend quality time together. All of these factors provoked the feeling of the loss of connection, emotional distance from family and friends.

The respondents noted that separation required them to make extra effort to keep in touch with their loved ones, such as traveling to other Ukrainian cities or calling their family and friends more often than before the war. On the one hand, this allowed them to receive emotional support. On the other hand, difficulties and obstacles in communication could cause them to feel exhausted and tired of communication. Some respondents also mentioned that they felt guilt and shame if they did not pay enough attention to their loved ones.

A certain share of the respondents emphasized that separation had affected the communication with their loved ones positively. They noted that this experience allowed them to become more responsive and caring. The study participants mentioned that the experience of separation made them closer with their friends and family, encouraged them to be in touch more often than before the war and to show their love.

Air raid warnings, bombings and blackouts significantly affected the labor conditions and the organization of the respondents’ working hours. They frequently led to a situation when, as a result of unplanned pauses, the respondents worked more than their regular working hours. In addition, regardless of where the work was done (at home or not), air raid warnings, bombings and blackouts led to delays in the completion of work tasks, service provision and manufacturing of the final product. It was difficult to plan and organize work—not the least because the sirens, bombings and blackouts were external factors which were difficult to control, predict, and therefore take any steps beforehand to deal with them. Education and health care workers were also especially likely to speak about their high responsibility for the lives of people in their care.

All of this, in turn, increased the level of stress and tension for employees, self-employed people and business owners; for the latter, it also led to reduced manufacturing and lower number of orders, and therefore profits. Some self-employed people and entrepreneurs said that these conditions had forced them to put their work on pause. In order to be able to work, the respondents tried to organize their time differently (particularly by synchronizing their working hours with the planned blackout schedule); they bought generators and other equipment that provided them with electricity during blackouts. In addition, in order to have access to power and internet, they had to move around the city and/or made the decision to move to another Ukrainian region or abroad.

Just like in the previous waves of the study, there is still a tendency related to difficulties with planning, especially in the aspects of life related to career and professional development. Some respondents noted that their professions had not lost their relevance during the full-scale invasion, while others, on the contrary, realized that they would not be able to continue working in their profession like before. A number of the study participants had already changed their job or occupation or planned to do it in the future. Their reasons for their desire for change included the opportunity to have a higher income, going into a more relevant or practical occupation, and the opportunity to work remotely. Some respondents also changed the values that guided them in choosing their occupation: they decided to choose the fields they like or the fields that are more useful to society.

Similarly to the previous wave of the study, Russian attacks on the Ukrainian energy system affected the respondents’ everyday lives. By the time of the survey, uninterrupted power supply had already been mostly reestablished, so the respondents spoke about the experience of blackouts as something they had already dealt with. Just like in the previous waves, they mentioned difficulties with planning their everyday lives and routines due to bombings and air raid warnings.

Speaking about their emotional state, the respondents in this wave tended to reflect on the past, the future, the meaning of life and their work, and about fundamental values and human behavior during the war. These answers were full of sorrow and grief for the past which can never be recovered, and for the future which will never be the same as it could have been if not for the full-scale war. When they shared their losses, grief, despair, pain, the respondents often deliberated over rhetorical questions or questions that worried them. States such as “confusion,” “uncertainty,” “helplessness” were widespread in the answers of the respondents in this wave. The respondents show how acutely the respondents experienced the feeling of their own helplessness, loss of control, and the unpredictability of events and inability to plan anything long-term.

Chronic stress and exhaustion remained widespread among the respondents. Their answers in February–March 2023 also show that these issues were more and more often accompanied not only by problems with memory and concentration but also with worsening chronic illnesses and sleep disturbances.

In all waves of the survey, the respondents shared the various strategies they used to control their emotions and the way these emotions are manifested. A prominent characteristic of this wave is the widespread strategy which can be generalized as trying to mobilize one’s emotional resources as much as possible, to be “collected,” to focus on some specific thing, on the “here and now.” A lot of answers featured the phrase “hang in there.” Compared to November, hope and faith in the victory were once again more likely to be expressed in the current wave of the survey, particularly as a source of support in the face of negative and heavy reflections about life during the war.

A significant share of the respondents reported that their connection to Ukraine and Ukrainian society had intensified. Despite this, some respondents were worried about the future that awaits the country and about their life in Ukraine. The study participants noted that over the course of the war their connection to Ukraine had become more conscious and pronounced than before.

Among the emotions which the respondents felt about Ukraine, the most frequently mentioned was pride. The study participants felt proud of Ukrainian society and the country in general, and of the people around them personally. Love was another emotion mentioned by the respondents while describing their connection to Ukraine. The love was also aimed both at the country in general, their hometowns, and their compatriots. However, positive emotions often went hand in hand with negative ones. For example, some respondents said that, along with love, they felt pain and despair due to the war and the destruction of Ukrainian cities, towns and villages by the Russian army. Other changes mentioned by the respondents included the emergence of a new type of solidarity in society, based on the shared experience of grief and tragedy. According to the study participants, the war had become an experience that united the people of Ukraine and encouraged people to help others.

At the same time, along with emotional elevation in the respondents’ thoughts about their connection to Ukraine, we could observe the feelings of anxiety and confusion, often directed to the future. The respondents were worried about what life would be like in Ukraine in a few years or when the war ends, and about whether they would be able to find their place in the society of the future. Contemplating their connection to Ukraine, the respondents mentioned additional social differentiation caused by the war. They noted that they were wary of the prospect of growing social tensions and new misunderstandings between different population categories—for instance, between people with different political views, Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers, those who had to move abroad and those who never left their hometown. For example, some of the respondents who had to leave Ukraine said that they felt shame and guilt for being abroad. In addition, they expressed concern that they could face misunderstanding and condemnation from others when they return.

Despite this, anxiety about the future was combined with the desire for change. The answers of some study participants demonstrate a growing sensitivity to injustice and negative phenomena in society, such as corruption, oligarchy or human rights violations. The war has become a turning point for the respondents, and they believe that after the victory society cannot tolerate various cases of injustice and must demand progressive transformations.

The respondents who had the experience of forced displacement mentioned that one of the biggest challenges for them was the process of making the decision to move, due to hesitation and the lack of a clear understanding of the opportunities for organizing their lives at the new location. The difficulty of this experience was also caused by being displaced from one’s usual physical space, by the lack of opportunity to maintain one’s daily routines, which created the feeling of being “torn away” from the life before the full-scale invasion.

Adaptation after displacement was not always successful, and the biggest source of problems was the process of integration in the employment structure and the search for housing. However, the displaced people mostly said that this experience was made easier by the active support of the host community that provided both emotional and material support. The process of arranging their life after moving abroad was seen by the respondents as more difficult compared to moving within Ukraine, which was caused by a lack of language comprehension, a lack of understanding of the social norms and the legal system in another country.

Regardless of whether they had the experience of displacement, the survey participants were concerned about tensions between groups with different experiences of the war. These tensions manifested as stereotypical ideas about people’s motives for staying in the occupied territories, moving within the country or moving abroad, which were mostly spread by the media. According to the respondents, in order to avoid conflict and fragmentation in society, Ukrainians need to look for ways to reach an understanding between different groups, to avoid the spread of hate speech and stigmatizing narratives.

People’s opinions about the future course of Russia’s war against Ukraine concerned their expectations about the length of the war: from the belief that the war would end in the near future to the expectation that it would last for years. Those who thought about a positive scenario described the victory of Ukraine and the death of Putin. As for negative scenarios, the respondents mentioned escalation of the war, including the use of nuclear weapons.

estion about the experience of moving.

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