Beyond crisis support – SI’s work in Ukraine

SI funds collaborations and exchanges for both individuals and organisations with the aim of strengthening Sweden's relations and developing collaborations with the countries around the Baltic Sea and countries of the EU Eastern Partnership.
The value of cooperation

SI has funded collaborative projects between actors in the Baltic Sea region for many years. Partners in Ukraine have been involved in several of these projects and there are well-established contacts with Ukrainian actors in, for example, academia, civil society and the public sector.

The projects that SI funds aim to strengthen development throughout the region. The projects always involve several countries. Ukraine has, for example, participated in projects on regional development, climate work, disinformation, energy issues, culture, innovation and digitalisation. This has contributed to increased capacity, networks, long-term relationships and collaborations between Sweden and other countries in the region.

Kurt Bratteby, head of the department for international relations, is positive about how many of the SI-funded projects, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have reorganized and – for the most part – been able to continue their work.

– We have seen a great commitment from our project owners to find solutions and ways forward despite the difficult situation that our Ukrainian partners, but also the region, is in.

The many years of contacts between actors in countries of the Baltic Sea region have been significant in the vulnerable situation that Ukraine is now in. Many continue their work in the project from Ukraine, for example, by participating in digital meetings and conferences, conducting feasibility studies or other research et cetera. When project participants from Ukraine have had to leave the country, partners around the Baltic Sea region have been able to support.

Baltic Artists in Development (Baltic AID) 2.0 is an SI-funded project that wants to strengthen a network for innovation and learning for professional independent musicians and managers. The project is based on a network established during a previous project funded by SI, which included Sweden, Estonia and Poland. This new project includes new partners from Poland and Ukraine. Astrid Selling at Musikcentrum Syd in Sweden coordinates the project.

– For many freelance musicians, it is a struggle to reach a larger audience. Not least for those who want to find an audience abroad. Within the project, we work to create a strong network. We are building a digital knowledge bank, which is also a platform for meeting each other and for co-creating.

Baltic AID 2.0 focuses primarily on the situation of independent music managers and musicians in the light of the Corona pandemic, but has now also had to deal with the consequences of the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian partner, Music Export Ukraine, is an independent initiative that supports emerging artists to establish contacts, market their music and develop their careers and talents at an international level. Astrid Selling tells that within the project, independent musicians and managers could apply to participate in the project’s so-called learning conferences.

– The interest from Ukraine was great with over 80 applicants for 6 places. But we only managed to hold two of four learning conferences before the war in Ukraine broke out.

Since then, the conditions for their participation have changed. The men remain in Ukraine, but some of the participating women have moved to countries in the immediate area and are trying in various ways to continue their activities, find contacts and participate in the project in the way that is possible. Astrid Selling explains that through the personal contacts created in the project, those who are in exile have been able to get support in establishing themselves at their new place of residence.

– For one of the persons, we managed in less than a day to find a rehearsal room in central Copenhagen, create meetings with music organizations, a music magazine and more. We also managed to find a good guitar for her. She only managed to get a backpack with her when she left Kyiv.

The project is planning a physical learning conference in Krakow this autumn. The Ukrainian participants who are outside Ukraine will hopefully participate in the learning conference. Astrid Selling is positive about the possibilities of also including participants that are still residing in Ukraine.

– Musicians can leave Ukraine for assignments or concerts so we hope to include our male participants as well. If that does not work, we will probably include more of the applicants from Ukraine that we were not able to include in the beginning. For those who cannot leave Ukraine, we think we will make the meeting as a hybrid. We will also film all lectures and post them in the knowledge bank, to enable Ukrainian participants to continue their participation in the project.

In the autumn of 2021, the Ukrainian-Swedish-Georgian Online Dictionary Project was granted support within the framework of Academic collaboration in the Baltic Sea region. The purpose is to create a digital Ukrainian-Swedish-Georgian dictionary, which has not existed before.

The first step is to develop the Ukrainian-Swedish part of the dictionary, and then expand with a Georgian-Ukrainian-Swedish part. The work takes place jointly between Thomas Rosén, senior lecturer in Slavic languages at the University of Gothenburg and researchers from Ukraine and Georgia.

However, the Russian invasion on February 24 made the start of the project impossible. The two Ukrainian researchers were forced to flee and have now moved to Sweden. At the same time, the demand for their work has never been greater as contacts between people in Sweden and Ukraine have increased significantly. SI has been able to contribute to making it possible to continue their work with the project from Sweden.

– The contacts that have been made within the research group are a unique prerequisite for the project to be able to be implemented at all, says Thomas Rosén.

The University of Gothenburg has employed one of the Ukrainian project participants on site in Sweden for eight months. Thomas Rosén says, however, that a third project participant can no longer work on the project due to the war but that they are trying to keep in touch with him.

– Probably, we will be able to complete the project work within the given framework, states Thomas Rosén.

Kurt Bratteby concludes that there are many more examples of how collaborative projects and networks in the region have managed to make a difference.

– SI has established networks, knows the region and has a close dialogue with partners in different countries which has been central this spring, when the situation for many has been challenging and unpredictable. It will also be important in the future when we hope to be able to support a peaceful development and a reconstruction of the country.

More about our work in the Baltic Sea region

The Swedish Institute funds exchanges and collaborations for both individuals and organizations. Through leadership programmes, support for project collaborations and scholarships, the Swedish Institute contributes to increased capacity, networks, long-term relationships and collaborations between Sweden and other countries in the Baltic Sea region. Read more on our web page on Baltic Sea region cooperation.

In our project database you can search for projects that include Ukraine.