An autoethnographic study of the legacies of collective trauma experienced by Russian Mennonite women who immigrated to Canada after WWII: implications on aging and the next generation

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Krahn, Elizabeth
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This thesis explores lifespan and intergenerational trauma effects experienced by Russian Mennonite women who fled from Stalinist Russia during WWII and migrated to Canada, and adult sons or daughters of this generation of women. As an adult child of survivors, I employed an autoethnographic methodology, conducting 1-on-1 interviews with eight women aged 78 to 96, and seven adult children aged 50 to 68. Older women demonstrated a lifelong emphasis on mental strength, faith, and resilience; the marginalization of emotions; evidence of insecure attachment styles; and potential for unresolved trauma to resurface in later life. The majority of adult children experienced attachment and identity issues; their life experiences are viewed through the lens of biological, psychological, familial, cultural (religious) transmission of trauma effects. Results highlight the importance of structural and narrative social work approaches that externalize and contextualize trauma and transform service environments that individualize and/or pathologize lifespan outcomes of trauma.
Life course approach, Critical gerontology, Collective trauma, Migration, Russian Mennonite women, Mental health, Lifespan trauma effects, Intergenerational trauma transmission, Insecure attachment, Narrative approaches, Externalizing and contextualizing trauma, Structural social work