Af Mette Skov Hansen
A few months ago, Yevheniia Pohorila did volunteer work in Ukraine. Together with other volunteers, she collected money for the country's military and contributed to the reconstruction of the many houses that have been destroyed by Russian bombs.
It's quite a change, and I can feel overwhelmed by how different it is. But it’s fantastic here,
Now the 18-year-old Ukrainian from Kyiv is instead at Brandbjerg Højskole, surrounded by green nature and young people from both Denmark and other countries.
"It's quite a change, and I can feel overwhelmed by how different it is. But it’s fantastic here,” says Yevheniia.
Yevheniia is one of the about 35 young people who have received support to go to a Danish folk high school last year and this spring.
The scholarship was founded by the The Association of the Danish Folk High School shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and its aim is to give the students tools that can give them hope for the future and help them rebuild their society when the war ends.
Last fall, Entrepreneur Marius Pedersen's Foundation chose to donate 250.000 Danish kroner to the scholarships. They ended up donating almost 347.000 kroner last year, and this spring the foundation has decided to donate further 250.000 kroner . This means that even more young people can apply for support for a stay.
Nice to feel young again
Yevheniia was in London in the fall when she heard about the possibility of going to a folk high school in Denmark
It feels a bit like that now I can combine all the things I've been missing in the past year.
One of her former teachers had heard about the scholarship and suggested that she schould apply.
She arrived at the folk high school on the 13th of March, and the first month has been very exciting, she says.
"It feels a bit like that now I can combine all the things I've been missing in the past year: having friends close by, being able to try different things, being creative and having less responsibility. It's been great to feel young again in a way," she says.
Trust and community
Even though Yevheniia has only been in Denmark for a short time, there are cultural differences that she has already noticed. Among other things, she is impressed by the trust that people have in each other at the college, and by the importance of the community.
"People choose to do everything together and involve each other. I am more social than I have been in a long time. At first, I was nervous about whether it would be too much, but it's actually good for me. When I'm alone, my thoughts about Ukraine can sometimes become quite overwhelming. But when I talk to the others, the thoughts disappear," she says.
A different youth
Sometimes, however, it can also feel strange to be in such a different place.
Even though Yevheniia tries not to keep up with the news too much, it's hard to avoid hearing bad news from Ukraine.
A few days ago she received a message that an old classmate had been killed at the front.
“When I read that message, everything seemed meaningless. In that way, it can seem strange to be in a place where people are most concerned about what to wear for the theme party on the weekend. Some of the conversations I hear here, are conversions I also had with my friends two years ago. But now they no longer seem important," she says.
She doesn't feel that she can complain when she is in such a safe place.
"But it's strange. At a morning assembly we sang 'Imagine' and the phrase 'imagine all the people living life in peace'. It was strange looking around at people from a country so close to my own, living in peace. Because I don't," she says, adding that it can also feel strange to discuss democracy in a country where democracy works so well.
"You have a good democracy, but still discuss how you can make it better. We are fighting against a country that does not care about democracy.”
Would like to share
Many of the students at school ask her about the situation in her home country, and she feels more and more comfortable talking about it.
I feel that's why I'm here. I came here for the cultural exchange.
“Every time I talk to people, they make sure to say that I don't have to say anything if I don't want to. But I want to tell everything. I am thinking of doing a cultural evening or giving a presentation soon. I feel more comfortable doing it now that I know the others," she says.
“I feel that's why I'm here. I came here for the cultural exchange. I am learning about Denmark, and it motivates me that I can share how different a youth we have in Ukraine now."
This fall, Yevheniia will travel to Spain to study communication and digital media at the IE University in Madrid. Before then, she has a few months in Ukraine, where she will continue volunteering.
"The vast majority of the young people I know work voluntarily. But we also have a lot to do. I hope I can take some of the tools with me from the folk high school. Maybe we could do more events in the ngo. I think it’s all about taking small steps and see how it grows.”
Yevheniia already has several friends who are curious to follow in her footsteps and apply for a scholarship at a Danish folk high school.
Find out how to apply here.