At the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, Sweden was one of the first countries to offer aid to those suffering the Russian invasion. Back in February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky first thanked Sweden for its enormous support.
This special relationship between the two countries was celebrated on the Costa del Sol this week at a special event organised to mark Sweden's National Day, 6 June, near Nerja.
Swedish residents were joined by a group of Ukrainians living on the Costa del Sol, headed by singer Nadya Zelenskaya and her creative team. Their objective was, just as Zelensky's had been in February, to thank the Swedes for their humanitarian aid for Ukraine after three months at war. The meeting took place at Los Caracoles, a rural hotel in Frigiliana near Nerja, decked for the occasion in blue and yellow, the colours of the flags of both countries.
Nadya's own musical gift to the Swedes on this special Blågul Natt (Blue and Yellow Night in Swedish) was a concert as well as a display of national costumes of some of the regions of Ukraine.
The highlight of the show was Nadya's own version of Stefania (Ukraine's Eurovision-winning song), devoted to people in need of a home and a mother's warmth.
“We will always be grateful to those who sympathised with us and also helped us financially. Especially we would like to mention Sweden. Sweden is a country which has been trying for more than two centuries to live in peace without war and conflict," said Nadya, who went on to mention Sweden's own success at Eurovision, winning six times.
"This is probably due to their long and meticulous selection process at their Melodifestivalen where they vote charitably. We are aware that this year money was donated to Ukraine. So we decided to thank the local Swedes in Nerja with Stefania,” the singer explained.
One of the guests at the event was Alexander, a Nerja resident originally from Malmö. “National Day in Sweden is celebrated with parades and local folk band performances. Normally, the big celebration takes place at the Skansen, a very green ethno-park in the middle of Stockholm with picturesque houses," he said.
"The yellow and blue Swedish flag is raised, and children in traditional costume present the royal couple with bouquets of summer flowers. As we see, all these attributes of the celebration in Sweden we have here in Los Caracoles, this green oasis full of flowers and unusual houses. I was impressed by the traditional hand-made costumes of Ukraine. I am sure most of us here just for these hours have learnt much more than we knew before,” he added.
Spanish tradition was also present at the event, with a performance by a local flamenco group who appeared on the stage in blue and yellow dresses.
“When we were invited to the Blue and Yellow party we said yes immediately and prepared yellow and blue dresses especially," said flamenco dancer Alicia. "I guess we all here understand everything with help of music and beauty in its different meaning. I hope we will meet again here next year on 6 June and hopefully Ukraine then will be living in peace,” she added.
Local councillor Javier Rodríguez greeted the participants of the event, with special words for the 'new' Nerja residents who have come to the town from Sweden. On 3 June there were 1,139 officially registered Swedes in Nerja and the number is rising. As for the Ukrainians, there are now only 123 residents in Nerja though the number has almost doubled since the war started.
The Andalusian touch at this Blue and Yellow Night was added by the traditional food served by Nerja restaurant El Sevillano.
Anna Morosova from Vinnitsa and Nina Viun from Poltava are two Ukrainian dancers who have recently moved to Malaga province as refugees. "For us it was a good 'contrast' to be in such a beautiful place with people who applaud us and really wish us the best and peace for our country," they told SUR in English
"If somebody invites us to other events we will participate with pleasure and share a part of our culture,” they added.
The event, planned as a show of solidarity and thanks, brought smiles as well as tears at some emotional moments. During the performance, event presenter Oksana Hryhorash received a video call from her brother who is fighting against the invaders. He was able to watch and hear the Ukrainian folk songs in the peaceful Andalusian environment with the backdrop of the Nerja coastline, receiving encouragement and greetings from the international guests, who were not just Swedish, Ukrainian and Spanish, but also Dutch, British, German and French, among others.