To the left: Olena Yehorova and her daughter Mariia, at University West. To the right: Mariia, Olena and fellow Ukrainian Katya, are all volunteering to help other Ukrainians arriving to Sweden.
Olena Yehorova is a Ukrainian associate professor, who before the war, taught classes in political science and history at Dnipro University of Technology. Now however, since her and her daughter had to flee Ukraine, they now reside in Trollhättan where Olena teaches at University West at the School of Business, Economics and IT.
When the invasion started Olena got in touch with University West, since Dnipro University of Technology and University West have a long history of collaborating on projects.
- The links between the universities became stronger when the war started, Olena explains. I saw that University West held seminars about the invasion, for example. And that’s when I decided to reach out to Pro Vice Chancellor Jan Theliander, who I had met before, and ask if it was possible for me and my daughter to come to Trollhättan.
So, on the 6th of March, ten days after the invasion had begun, Olena and her daughter Mariia started their long journey to get from Dnipro to Trollhättan. For four days they traveled by train and by plane. Waiting in hour long queues to get onto trains and across borders.
- These were quite difficult days, says Olena. The longest queue was by the Ukrainian/Polish border, it was 10 hours. When in Poland we spent a day getting tickets to fly to Sweden, for the following day. So, we were ready to spend the night on a train station but instead we were lucky to get to stay at a Polish family’s house for the night.
During the long journey, from Dnipro to Trollhättan, Olena and her daughter met many people affected by the war in one way of the other. As a way of commemorating all these human fates, Olena has written about some of the stories heard and seen.
Read Olena Yehorova’s own text “Stories of Women at War”.
When finally arriving in Trollhättan, Olena and her daughter got settled with the help of her new colleagues at University West and the people living in Trollhättan.
- I would call Sweden a northern country with a warm heart, says Olena. I’m out of words. We have been warmly and thoughtfully taken care of. Besides, everyone is so kind.
As an example of the kindness they received, Olena tells about a colleague who brought a synth to her daughter Mariia because she learned about her liking to play the piano. And about another colleague who brought books Olena had mentioned being interested in, without her even asking for them.
In turn Olena and Mariia try to return the favor, by helping other Ukrainians arriving to Trollhättan and the adjacent area. So, after only two weeks they started volunteering.
We are happy to be volunteers, she says. We help people coming with bus, we give them information, help get them adjusted and to get in contact with a host family.
Even here in Sweden, Olena continues to teach political science. A subject more relevant than ever, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on.
- While here in Sweden I have submitted an article, Olena tells. I have chosen to focus on a topic that is important right now – the shift in the Ukrainian public opinion on whether to be pro Russia or pro west.
The article deals with how the Ukrainian people historically have been dividend into two camps – pro Russia and pro west. But Olena can now point to a dramatic change in public opinion, since the Russian invasion began. Now, the Ukrainian people are instead leaning to the west.
Olena illustrates with a clear example.
- A friend of mine, a lady from Kyiv, told me that she talked to a man who lived in Melitopol, a city in the southern parts of Ukraine. He was pro Russia, completely, says Olena. He was a supporter of the Russian communist course, and nothing could change his opinion. But when he saw what the Russian forces did, he completely changed his mind and he started speaking the Ukrainian language instead.
The changes in attitude can be shown through research. But they can also, more importantly, be seen in the lives that changes with it.
The university in Dnipro, where Olena is a associate professor, is now working under the conditions of martial law and, thus, with limited physical access to students and teachers to continue the educational process.
- Therefore, web communication platforms have been actively used instead, Olena explains. Thanks to cyberspace, the face-to-face communication and participation in traditional events can be carried out online instead.
Another important task of the university in Dnipro nowadays, is to provide the learning process for students and teachers from the Pryazovskyi Technical University, who have been evacuated from Mariupol. They are now able to use Dnipro University of Technology’s tools and facilities.
During her time in Sweden Olena will try to continue conducting research, teaching, hosting roundtable discussions and more. But in the end, she wishes to return to Ukraine and reunite with the rest of her family.
In the meantime she and her daughter are grateful for being able to live in Trollhättan and for Olena to be able to work at the university.
- I would like to say words of gratitude to all people who helped us here in Trollhättan, says Olena. I would like to thank all my colleagues at University West and all the other people that have helped us get adjusted here and given us all necessary things we needed. There has been a terrific support for us and thanks University West, Olena concludes.