Språkcafé in Ukraine

Ukraine now has an establihed Swedish Langugae Club. Co-founder Anastasiya Borenkova has shared her experience with us, telling us the story of how everything started.

“The idea came to our mind 2 years ago. Me and the other two founders, Alina and Anna, did not know each other by that time but we shared a big passion for Sweden. After a year of amazing volunteer experience in Sweden, Alina came back to Ukraine and extremely missed “Swedishness” and Swedish language. She started looking for people who would like to meet and speak Swedish in Kyiv. Through Couchsurfing she found Anna who never learnt Swedish but frequently visited her friends in Sweden, travelled around Sweden and simply fell in love with the country. They started weekly Swedish speaking meetings, being one of the few enthusiasts looking for ways how to involve more Swedish speakers to the group. Thanks to a recommendation of their friends, they got in touch with the SI alumni community. I was one of the SI alumni who liked their idea and joined the club. I began learning Swedish during my studies in Östersund and finished A2 level. After I returned to Ukraine, I wanted to keep practicing Swedish with native speakers and those who also study Swedish in Kyiv. Together we named our speaking club “Språkcafé i Kyiv” and in short this is how our project began.

In the very beginning, there were onlike about 2 or 3 of us at the meetings – choosing discussion topics, playing table games and of course, speaking Swedish. The challenge was to find native speakers but we managed by going through our personal networks, friends of friends, Facebook announcements on SI alumni group, Couchsurfing etc. We used all available communication channels to attract more people to join us. We held our first Språkcafe meetings with Swedes from Ericsson, Beetroot and Tobii (Swedish companies in Ukraine) who supported our initiative. We were really building a little community.

Now there are more than 250 people in our Facebook group  and more and more of them join us every week. It means that there is a growing interest in Sweden and Swedish in Ukraine. We even meet people who learn other Scandinavian languages but they come to us because there is no similar Norwegian or Danish club in Kyiv. There is “Språkcafé i Lviv” which was established by our example a year ago and we plan to organize such clubs in other Ukrainian cities as well. It is great to know that people heard about us in Sweden or even on a plane on the way to Kyiv. Therefore, we expand our borders.

Traditional group selfie at the weekly meeting

We organize general weekly meetings once in one or two weeks in different cozy places in Kyiv. Sometimes we have special thematic meetings e.g. köttbullar evening when we cook Swedish meals or watch Swedish movies together. We always try to organize small celebrations of Swedish holidays as well. One of the most memorable holidays, which we celebrated this year, was Midsummer.

Midsummer celebration 2016

We had almost 80 guests including Swedes who live in Kyiv or arrived specially for the holiday. We spent three days in nature outside of the city. We had so much fun! We followed all holiday traditions – danced around a maypole, wove wreaths, sang Midsummer songs, cooked traditional dishes, played Swedish games, swam in the Kyiv sea. In addition, this autumn we organized Swedish picnic in collaboration with the Scandinavian house “Stockholm Studios” in Irpen. We cooked köttbullar and Swedish desserts for the guests and gave presentations on the Swedish Embassy in Ukraine, Swedish business in Kyiv, and travelling in Sweden. I think the most impressive was the final part of the event when we opened a can of surströmming.

Swedish picnic at Stockholm Studios. October 2016

Beetroot founders who were our first Swedish guests at Språkcafe meetings played a crucial role in development of the project. This year Beetroot kindly created a logo for our club, and, most importantly, a website. Everything was free of charge as Beetroot charity initiative. Thanks to Swedish Institute financial contribution, we bought a domain and paid for hosting for the website. We feel a lot of support and very thankful for that. We hope our Språkcafe group will be growing, strengthening bonds and inspiring SI alumni from other countries to create their Swedish language clubs.

Do you have a story that you want to share with your fellow SI Alumni? Get in contact with the SI Alumni team!