Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine has been a great social shock. The war affects emotional states, everyday lives and routines, public opinion, interpersonal relationships, socioeconomic situations, employment, civil activity. The scale of these changes is unprecedented for both Ukraine and Europe in the perspective of decades. At the same time, these changes will affect the future of social institutions in postwar Ukraine and its further development in general. Capturing and conceptualizing these changes allows us to obtain data both for future research of Ukrainian society after the war and for planning transformative changes.
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, we conducted our first study to capture the thoughts, feelings and actions of people in Ukraine during the first two weeks after February 24. 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, focusing on the first three months of the full-scale war; the third wave was conducted in August, focusing on the six months of the full-scale war. In November 2022, we conducted the fourth 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 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 fourth such study, we call it the “fourth wave.” Despite this, the questionnaire only partially repeated the previous ones, because the situation in Ukraine had changed by November compared to August (the “third wave”), May (the “second wave”), and March (the “first wave”). For example, in the ninth month of the full-scale war, it seemed less relevant to us to repeatedly ask about the experiences of moving, while questions about preparations for the war and job search became 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:
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 November 7–27, 2022. 352 respondents participated in the survey during that time.
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.
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.
The average age of the respondents at the time of filling out the questionnaire was 40. The youngest participant of the study was 18, and the oldest was 78. 9% of the respondents belonged to the early working age (18–24), more than a half (72%) of the participants of the study belonged to the core working age category (25-54), 13% belonged to the mature working age category (55-64), and 4% of the respondents belonged to the elderly age group (65 and older). 2% of the respondents did not specify their age.
A little less than two thirds (63%) of the respondents identified as women, a third (33%) identified as men, and 1% of the study participants identified as being outside the definitions of “women” or “men.” 3% did not answer this question. The majority (68%) of the respondents were married or in a romantic relationship. 2% did not answer this question. Less than a fifth (16%) of the respondents had underage children, 1% had three children. 5% did not answer this question.
For 5% of the respondents, secondary education was the highest education degree they had obtained by the time of filling out the questionnaire. 11% had professional/professional-technical education, more than a half (76%) of the study participants had higher education degrees, 6% had a PhD. 2% of the respondents did not specify their education level.
A little over a half (58%) of the respondents were employees (including military personnel) at the time of the study, almost a fifth (19%) were self-employed (freelancers, self-employed without employees), 7% were retired, 3% were entrepreneurs with employees, 3% were students, 3% were unemployed, and 2% were on maternity leave. The option “Other” was chosen by 3% of the respondents. 2% of the study participants did not answer this question.
The study participants described the financial situation of their households as of February 24 as follows: 2% could not afford enough food; 10% could afford food but could not always afford clothes; a quarter (25%) could afford food and clothes, but could not always buy household appliances; a little less than a half (48%) of the respondents could afford household appliances but not a car or an apartment; 13% could buy a car or other goods of similar value. 2% of the respondents did not answer this question.
38% of the study participants permanently lived in Kyiv as of February 24; 19% lived in Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipro and Lviv; 14% lived in other regional centers; 14% lived in other cities and towns (not regional centers); and 12% of the respondents did not live in cities or towns. 3% of the study participants did not answer the question about their permanent place of residence.
Almost a half (48%) of the study participants did not move due to the war from their permanent place of residence where they lived as of February 24, 2022. 38% of the respondents moved within Ukraine, and 17% moved abroad.
Based on the survey we conducted, we can draw the following conclusions regarding the experiences and feelings in Ukrainian society in November 2022.
The informants felt uncertain about the length of the war. Their answers reveal a tendency towards getting used to the thought that the war is still going on and will also last a long time. In November 2022, the respondents were the most concerned about things directly related to the war: massive missile attacks, blackouts, interruptions of water and heating supply, the possibility of repeated advance from Belarus. In addition, just like during the previous wave of the study, the participants were concerned about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones, their health, financial situation and jobs, as well as the economic situation in Ukraine.
As for the most important events in this period, the respondents singled out massive missile and drone attacks. This also affected their everyday lives and routines due to blackouts, water or heating interruptions, which caused the need to readjust their routines and schedules. The study participants were preparing for the winter and the likely lack of heating. People with sufficient financial resources were buying devices to ensure autonomous power supply. Those with lower income were buying clothes and stockpiling food. Some had trouble resting. They were not able to distance themselves from thoughts about the war, they were overloaded with work and had trouble sleeping.
The war had changed the planning dynamics for the participants and increased their adaptability in terms of planning of the future. The main trend was a lack of long-term planning. The ability to plan was affected by one’s financial situation, safety situation, and blackouts. The planning horizon for many respondents was within the range of several days to several months. On the first days after the full-scale invasion, most respondents said that they were not planning their future at all. By may, according to the findings of the second wave of the survey, the respondents reported having plans for a day or a few days. Even though by November 2022 a significant share of the respondents were still unable to make plans for the distant future, some noted that elements of medium-term planning and a kind of stability had returned into their lives. As a result, their planning was mostly short-term—and at the same time, a certain share of them felt anxious about long-term planning.
Financial difficulties caused by inflation, job or income loss forced the respondents to limit their spending, take loans and accumulate debt. Some of the surveyed could not even afford basic necessities, medical services or medicine. A significant problem for many was paying utility fees and rent. In these conditions, additional spending associated with displacement, preparations for the winter, and the need to organize their household in the conditions of irregular power supply were especially difficult for the respondents. In addition, a significant share of the respondents were concerned that they were no longer able to donate the same amounts as before for the needs of the military or volunteer organizations, or could not afford to donate at all anymore because their financial situation had deteriorated.
Those respondents who had lost their jobs since the beginning of the war or lost their self-employment income encountered a range of difficulties with their job search. The survey participants’ answers reveal that the lower number of vacancies and increased competition for them due to the war’s negative effects on the economy and growing unemployment had caused the conditions and compensation offered for job vacancies to deteriorate. In addition, the surveyed were facing the same problems that had existed even before the war, but the war had exacerbated them. Primarily because the need to search for a job in difficult economic conditions itself emerged as a problem requiring an urgent solution. These difficulties included job market discrimination by age, disability or health problems, discrimination of IDPs, lack of required qualifications or skills needed to retrain, and problems associated with the size of the settlement where the respondent lived at the time of the survey.
In contrast to the previous wave of the study, when we distinguished background tension and anxiety as the key emotions, the most frequently reported feelings in this wave were chronic stress, permanent exhaustion, and apathy. This also manifested in answers about job search, communication with other people, and involvement in community life and volunteering: a number of the respondents reported that the obstacle for them was specifically exhaustion, burnout, and the associated decrease in productivity and focus.
Difficulties with having rest and feeling rested, which were described by the respondents, also show that exhaustion and stress had become chronic for many. Another widespread response to the long-term experience of intense emotion, along with exhaustion and apathy, was emotional instability; at the same time, the tendency for anger management issues and increased irritability was also prominent. Among the other emotions shared by the respondents in November, the negative spectrum emotions were dominant: fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and loneliness. Causes for joy were mostly limited only to the successes of the Ukrainian army and the feelings of pride for one’s society, nation, the feeling of unity with others.
The war had affected communication between neighbors. Among the respondents who noted changes in this communication, the majority emphasized positive aspects, such as increased cohesion and improved neighborly communication. Various levels and depths of changes can be distinguished. Among other things, a number of the respondents noticed that their communication with neighbors had changed superficially—for instance, they had only started to say hello more often. Others, in contrast, said that they had gained experience of mutual aid, cooperation, and joint action with their neighbors during the full-scale war. Some even emphasized that this attentiveness to others had developed in their cities into organized movements of neighborly mutual aid.
In their explanations of what unity meant for them, the respondents were the most likely to mention unity against Russia and unity in the fight against it. Other signs of unity, in the respondents’ opinions, included the growing volunteer movement as well as physical, financial and emotional aid for those who needed it, the shared experiences of the war, and increased understanding of one’s belonging to Ukrainian society. At the same time, there were also respondents who noted that the unity was more notable at the beginning of the war, but it had decreased by the time of the latest survey; some also expressed concern that this unity could weaken when the war ends.
Speaking about the societal differences which could have deepened since the beginning of the full-scale war, the respondents were the most likely to mention differences related to people’s financial situations, to whether one had direct experience of facing the war, and to political views related to people’s attitudes towards the war, Russia and “everything Russian.” In addition, in the context of differences which felt like they were becoming deeper, the respondents mentioned language, ethical values and education, as well as differences in terms of active participation in the war (in the Armed Forces, as volunteers, etc.) versus sticking to the role of a “passive observer” and just living one’s own life.
A share of the study participants said that they were already participating in community life or the life of their settlement by volunteering or helping those in need. The respondents who wished to participate in community life in some way in the future noted that they would like to do it in different ways: by volunteering, by joining non-governmental organizations, social initiatives or projects, by participating more actively in civil society and influencing decision making, and by working on urban development. Some of the respondents did not want or were not prepared to actively participate in community life.
 According to the categorization of age groups based on working ability used by UN experts in their socioeconomic and demographic calculations.
 Respondents could choose several options in reply to the question about the experience of moving.
During the war in Ukraine, we collect and analyse data on its impact on Ukrainian society, especially housing, education, social protection, and migration