At UEFA EURO 2012, a new autonomous republic has sprung up on Trukhanov Island in Kyiv – its name? Camp Sweden.
The site which is home to Sweden's travelling supporters covers an area of 22 hectares surrounded by the River Dnepr, with facilities for up to 6,500 people. This Swedish state within Ukraine is divided into three counties: gold, silver and bronze. The pricing policies for pitches, and the population of each, varies. Families with children and older people live apart from younger fans, who represent the vast majority of the indigenous population.
Plenty of the citizens have driven here all the way from Sweden in their own cars, which are parked in a specially constructed, secure lot, but all are taking the opportunity to cross the river and explore Kyiv's city centre. "We like the convenient location of the island," said Ilva, who has come to support the national team with three friends. "In the camp we can enjoy nature, because we are living in a forest, surrounded by the river. But we only have to cross the footbridge to be in the whirlwind of big city life. It's a wonderful contrast."
Camp Sweden has its own domestic scene, with plenty of recreational activities, as well as a big screen which allows the campers to watch UEFA EURO 2012 matches without leaving the site. "Me and my friends like to come here at night to watch the games in other groups," said Lennart, who has come here with friends from Malmo.
"When there is no football – in the morning or in the afternoon – we enjoy playing football, badminton and tennis," continued Lennart. "A very cool thing is that you can also rent bikes here. One day we went deep into the island and got so carried away that we got lost. We were cycling around for quite a long time until we met local cyclists, who helped us find a way back to base. It is romantic. We liked it very much."
That local help has been one of the defining characteristics of this Swedish exclave, with residents keen to emphasise the excellent relations they have had with Kyivans. Ilva said: "Our car broke down at night when we had almost got to Kyiv. We were in a fix because we did not know what to do. But we were lucky, because a driver stopped to help us. He spotted that we were foreigners who are driving to support our team at the EURO, joked about our car problem and agreed to tow us to the nearest garage. And that was how we made it to the capital."
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