The University of Tartu is blessed to have diverse students. This year, we welcomed Ukranian twins Marko and Levko, who came here to study the same thing: Democracy and Governance at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies. We decided to find out what brought them here and why they chose the same field.
1. So, a pair of twins studying the in same area. How did that happen? Why this particular field? Have you had the same interests since childhood?
Marko: It happened so that I met my best friend even before I was born. We really liked each other from the beginning, and have already spent 21 years together. Due to our similar background and experience, we developed similar interests, and that’s how it happened that when we were sending applications for our MA studies the programmes were the same. To be honest, sometimes it is hard to communicate with a person throughout your life. I thought that maybe it would be better for us to become more separate, and was even planning to finish my master’s degree at Central European University, but due to the unstable situation with the legal status of that university, it happened that we are together. Now I believe that it was the right decision, because there will be a lot of chances to live separately in the future, but when we are together we support and help each other. Together we are a coherent power – it is easy to remember us, and I believe we make a stronger impression. Still, it is important to take breaks and have a rest from time to time, so we can simply travel to different places. For example, last year my brother was so fed up with me that he ran away from me to Morocco for almost two months and was pretending that he was doing some really helpful volunteer stuff there.
Levko: Yeah, I suppose that we both have similar fields of interest. However, it is important to understand that having similar interests doesn’t mean that we think in the same way. Moreover, I would say that we even have different perspectives on the same issues. For example, when we were doing our internship at Canadian House of Commons we were working in offices of deputies from different parties and had an opportunity to get the whole image and compare. I suppose it is a huge benefit for us – that is, how we complement each other – and we can cover some of our interests from different sides to get a more complex picture because, as you know, the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. We both chose the Democracy and Governance programme for our studies for simple reasons. Firstly, it is extremely interesting and a practical scientific field. Also, it is highly relevant to changes that are now going on, not only in our country, but in the whole world. We suppose that our country has a strong need for qualified human resources in the governmental sphere. That is why we aspire to play a key role in social changes in Ukraine, and we both trust that the D&G programme will provide us with a toolkit to be a driving force for democratic and political changes.
2. What are the differences between you two? What about similarities? How would you describe each other?
Marko: I suppose that the most noticeable difference between us is a birthmark on my brother’s cheek – it is a small “life hack” for our tutors to distinguish us. Apart from this, there are no huge differences in the way we look, and sometimes, due to this fact, people tend to forget that we are two different persons. That is why in childhood my brother always suffered with me for stuff that I did. I am definitely the better, more popular twin of us, and it is not only due to the fact I am older (We still have discussions on this issue: I believe that I am older by 15 min and my brother says that the difference between us is only 10 min). I also think that my brother is a better person; he can always set his priorities and do the right thing in spite of what he wants. I would describe him as a nice guy that looks a bit similar to me.
Levko: Actually, it is easier to say what is similar between us than to count all the differences. We look similar only from first appearance, and if you know us better we will appear totally different to you. I suppose that the fundamental difference between us is that our characters differ. That is the place where other differences take their beginning. We have different tastes in music, we have different life goals and values, but we can always tolerate and totally understand the point of view of others. My brother is more extroverted and an outside-orientated person in a good way. So he is more open to meeting new people. It doesn’t mean that I am closed or unfriendly – definitely not. It just means that sometimes it is not so important for me to care about what people think about me.
3. Why did you decide to study in Tartu? Have you enjoyed Tartu so far? Is this your first time here? What has been the strangest thing about Estonians to you?
Marko: I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to become a student in the most fashionable programme in the world – the D&G programme. Also, I am of the opinion that in the modern world it is impossible for a person to stay in the same place if it is a matter of personal development. We just have to change something and keep moving forward if we want to develop, because the world is changing rapidly and when you think you remain in your position other people move forward. It is like a mountain that is covered with ice: the only possible way to the top is moving forward. The discomfort zone is my zone of comfort – the worse the better. That is the thing I understood while I was doing my BA degree in sociology at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. I felt that I was in a comfort zone, and that if I stayed there for few more years it would be too difficult to continue personal development. So I thought that I should give up my work and change something. Tartu was definitely the best possible option.
I am so glad to be here – it is a healthy scientific environment where my brain wants to create new ideas. As it is our first time in Estonia, I really like this country as a place where everyone can fit in. Tartu is really comfortable town to study in, as there are all the conditions for various hobbies and interests. The only thing I am a little bit concerned about is the fact that “The winter is coming”. I understood it when on the 28th of August (AUGUST!!!!) I found a pair of gloves in my welcome bag. For God’s sakes, why do I need gloves in SUMMER? There was also one thing that made me feel suspicious – a booklet entitled “How to survive in Estonia”. But, as I mentioned previously, I enjoy dealing with discomfort, so I hope that winter in Estonia is going to be an interesting adventure.
Levko: Because Tartu is one of the best universities and I believe that it really can provide us with tools we need to make this world a better place to live in. Also, the Estonian experience in democratization and development is critically important for Ukraine and can be taken as an example for all post-Soviet countries. Nowhere else can you feel such a diverse but united multicultural student society. Though I have only been here for two weeks, I really enjoy Tartu. Lectures are extremely interesting, student life is rich and astonishing, and Estonians are great and hospitable people.
4. If you could impose one big change in the world, what would it be?
Marko: We have the same answer to this question, so I will answer for both of us. Yes, there are a lot of things that should be changed in this world, and if I had a magic chance to change it I would leave it the same. This is because I believe that the world is perfect in its non-perfection. And people don’t really need magic to deal with all problems in the world – they can do it if they become united. And I am glad that I have an opportunity to become a part of this change.