A conversation with a Ukrainian woman who worked on the transformation of the park in Sweden
In Ukraine, I worked for the human rights organization “Eastern Ukrainian Center of Public Initiatives”, the head of which previously studied in Sweden on a Visby scholarship. She recommended me to apply for a scholarship. Visby covers the full cost of the education and also allocates monthly living expenses.
Eventually, I entered Lund University for a two-year master’s program in strategic communications. Literally six months after entering the university, I started working as a student employee at VentureLab, which helps to develop startups, turn students’ ideas into projects. There I worked as an event manager and communicator.
When I entered the university, I did not set a goal to stay in Sweden. I knew that in my country with foreign education and experience I am worth much more than in a foreign country with a foreign background – an emigrant is an emigrant everywhere. But it so happened that during some time of my stay in Sweden, I found an interesting position in the project Söderscen, which was carried out in the park Frutorps. So I did not return to Ukraine. Now I live in the very cozy and tidy city of Helsingborg.
I got into the project in May 2020. I found out about it on Facebook – a friend sent me an announcement stating that Söderscen was looking for a communicator. I sent an application. Although Swedish is not my native language, I still wrote a cover letter in it (and, by the way, did not give it to test native speakers). In the letter, I suggested many ideas for improving the work of the park and talked about who they could contact to involve in the project and make it successful. I think it was my ideas and strong motivation that helped me get into the position of a Söderscen communicator. Later, I also started organizing events.
I worked in different ways: sometimes 2-3 hours a day, and sometimes 5-8. It all depended on the amount of work that needed to be done. I received 150 KR per hour. The tax rate in our municipality is 31%, so in fact I received 112 KR per hour (about 337 UAN).
We changed the image of the park
As Helsingborg is a border town, there are often clashes between all sorts of border gangs that shoot at each other. The local park is associated with drug trafficking and crime, and the aim of our project was to change this perception. Here our idea is called placemaking – it requires the involvement of locals in various activities. Due to this, the transformation of the place takes place.
Söderscen is funded from the local budget. The public has the opportunity to offer their ideas for projects and receive funding for them. One such project was the creation of a mini-library in the park. An active woman from Helsinki filled out a form on our website and received funding from the municipality in the amount of 6.500 KR (approximately 20.000 UAN). This amount covered the cost of manufacturing the library, its filling. By the way, the library is still in the park.
In the summer, the park hosted an event for parents with children: we made tools that can remove makeup, then wash and reuse. Bags were also made from used T-shirts.
Due to the quarantine and the concept of the project, which provides for the involvement of many city residents in activities in the park, we could not conduct events online. Therefore, in order not to violate the quarantine restrictions, measures were created with a minimum number of people or with prior registration.
It is very gratifying that in 2020 we managed to hold a little more than 70 events. People have already begun to understand that this is their park, that they have done something useful for it. This became especially noticeable after the event of mass painting of old chairs and armchairs in the park. Once the children began to break them, and the locals were outraged by this, remarking to the parents to better raise their children. That is, they began to defend the park on their own and take care of it.
And our activities have helped bring different cultures together. As Helsingborg is a multinational city, there is strong segregation between the Swedish and Arab communities. There are shops where Swedes do not set foot, because there is an Arabic sign, and vice versa. But people of different genders and races gathered at our events. It doesn’t matter how old you are, who you pray to or whether you pray at all. Everyone is doing something cool together. The barrier between people is disappearing, and this is extremely important.
It could be the same in Ukraine …
I lived in Ternopil for 17 years and in Kyiv for another 6 years. There were no terrible parks there or there. But the main problem for most of them was garbage. And this can be got rid of if Ukrainians realize that the responsibility for the mess is not primarily on those who clean, but on those who litter. I think we would also have great parks if people volunteered more often and utilities received more funding to be able to work with special equipment rather than primitive means. Then their work would be more efficient.
Life in Sweden
In my heart I am a little Scandinavian. I am impressed that no one in Sweden violates my borders.
* There is no hierarchy in the university: you address teachers and professors by name, even if they are professors. It is very comfortable.
* In Sweden, unlike Ukraine, there is no advertising with sexualization, where women’s bodies sell everything.
*Cosmetics are rarely used here – although I brought a handbag with makeup products from home, I probably opened it three times during my stay here.
*Alcohol in my city is sold only in one centralized store, which is open on weekdays from 10:00 to 19:00, and on Saturday – from 10:00 to 15:00. And so throughout Sweden. In regular grocery stores you can buy beer with a maximum alcohol content of 3.5 rpm. Everything else is either less concentrated or completely non-alcoholic. Alcohol is very expensive in the restaurant. For example, a glass of wine 150 ml can cost 90 KR – 270 UAN. It is forbidden to drink alcohol on the streets here – it is possible only indoors. These rules are followed and nobody tries to circumvent them.