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Published: 2023-02-22

Ukrainian student Sergiy Borodin received donated funds

PROFILE In autumn 2022, Umeå University started a fundraiser to support Ukrainian students fleeing the war and joining Sweden. One of the recipients of these donations is 23-year-old Sergiy Borodin. “Swedish living costs are extremely expensive, every bit of help is appreciated,” he says.

Text: Johanna Fredriksson
Image: Mattias Pettersson

Sergiy Borodin is currently taking his second semester at the Master’s Programme in Chemistry at Umeå University. He was on his last semester on a Bachelor’s programme at Kharkiv National University in eastern Ukraine in January 2022 when he felt that staying in the country was no longer a safe option.

“I followed the news that was reaching bad conclusions and decided that within a month I needed to have left Ukraine. This was when everyone believed that if a war started, it would just take a couple of days until Ukraine no longer existed, and nobody could imagine what would actually happen,” says Sergiy Borodin.

So, he left his home country and took residence with friends of friends in a small Swedish town. Most people he spoke to felt he was overreacting. The threat of war had lingered over Ukraine since the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014. Since then, nothing had happened, so why would it now? That was how his friends and family reasoned for staying put. Not long after, however, on 24 February 2022, the first Russian bombs fell on Ukraine – and war was an accomplished fact.

“I wouldn’t say it was hard to believe. Ever since I participated in the 2014 events in Ukraine, I knew this wasn’t over yet and something else would happen. It was just a matter of time. We kind of thought it would be later, though.”

Sergiy Borodin applied for a temporary residence permit in Sweden and was able to complete his Bachelor’s degree remotely. His next step was to apply to a Master’s programme at his home university – and he was accepted. At the same time, he had the opportunity to study at Umeå University as an exchange student via the Erasmus+ program.

The university initiated a fundraiser

When the war broke out, the EU chose to adopt the Temporary Protection Directive meaning that Ukrainians have the right to temporary residence and work permit in the European Union. The directive also means that refugees choosing to study are exempt from paying tuition fees at universities. These students are, on the other hand, not entitled to student grants or student loans, which leads to difficulties for the students to afford their living costs.

As a result, Umeå University initiated a fundraiser in autumn 2022. Anyone who wants to contribute can donate an optional amount to simplify for Ukrainian students to afford their living costs while pursuing their studies. The incoming donations are allocated twice per year.

Having a buffer to cover such a situation really helps.

As an Erasmus+ student Sergiy Borodin receives a scholarship for his studies at Umeå University. But after all bills and necessities are paid, the allowance is pretty much gone. Particularly in these financially strained times with high inflation. As a result, he applied to receive funds from the fundraising campaign and was accepted.

“Swedish living costs are extremely expensive, even compared to most other EU countries. You don’t have anything left after paying your rent, food and bills. So, if you have any unexpected expenses or a health emergency, it could result in a very difficult situation. But having a buffer to cover such a situation really helps, not least for your mental well-being,” says Sergiy Borodin.

Sergiy Borodin is taking his second semester out of three on the Master’s programme. This summer, he plans to leave Umeå University and Sweden to take the final semester remotely from Germany.

The building in which his apartment lies in Kharkiv is still intact. But living conditions are rough and the rest of his family managed to flee to Germany shortly after the war broke out, so no one has been to the apartment in nearly a year.

“I’m not sure how inhabitable the apartment still is. But the building itself is still there, and waiting for us probably.”

Do you think you will return?
“Me, I don’t think I will. Because honestly, I have always had plans of leaving Kharkiv after finishing my Bachelor’s degree,” he says while describing his dreams to pursue further studies and take on a biochemistry career in Germany. And to help his family.
“In a few years, I can hopefully support them financially.”

Feeling hope for Ukraine

Sergiy Borodin follows the developments in Ukraine through the news. It inspires hope to learn that Ukraine and Ukrainians are supported by Europe, and countries beyond, and about positive Ukraine war advancements. Contrary to common belief, Ukraine did not fall within days.
“I like opening the news every day, there have been good news all the way,” says Sergiy Borodin.