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Piece of Sweden found in Ukraine

19th May 2010

Some time ago I – together with my wife and the Secretary General of Ukraine YMCA, Viktor Serbulov, and his wife and daughter – visited Gammalsvenskby (the English translation of the name would be Old Swedish Village). The visit we did on our way to Kiev after having had the annual meeting with Field Group Ukraine – for which I am the leader – in the Crimean peninsula.

Gammalsvenskby is a very small village about 500 kilometers south of Kiev, by the bank of Dnjepr River, close to the Crimean peninsula and not so far away from the river’s mouth to The Black Sea. The village is a part of the village Zmijevka in the Kherson oblast (i.e. region) in Ukraine.

Gammalsvenskby has a very interesting history. Until 1781 there was a small group of Swedish people living on Dagö outside Estonia’s coast. The group had been there for about 500 years. Because of fighting and hostilities with the Swedes the Russian empress Katherine II decided to move the Swedes in August 1781. Many Swedes died during the long march but those who reached their new land established the village Gammalsvenskby. Most of the inhabitants, around 900 people, moved to Sweden 1929 but a few of those people returned to Gammalsvenskby to live there. Today the village has about 150 people of Swedish origin out of which only a few still speaks Swedish.

The church in the village serves the Ukrainian orthodox congregation as well as the Swedish Lutheran congregation. Because of that the church has one onion cupola and one “ordinary” tower.

In the village we met a man, Viktor Buskas, with whom we had a very long and interesting conversation in Swedish. For my wife and me, being Swedish, it was a very strange feeling to speak Swedish with someone in this small village in the very south of Ukraine. Viktor told us that the contact with Sweden is not very big but Swedes visit the village every now and the. In 2008 the Swedish King and Queen was there on a visit. Viktor also told us that they have some exchange with soccer clubs in the south of Sweden. Viktor himself was in Sweden in 2000.

Jan Nissén
Kalmar, Sverige

Author/Source: Jan Nissén, Sweden

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