Averkyna is from Ukraine, Rivne city. “I always dreamt of an academic career,” she says. “My parents were teachers, but they forbid me to become a teacher. It is a very difficult job and low paid in Ukraine. They encouraged me to do something more.”
Even after two doctoral degrees – in Ukrainian system Professor of Sciences and Candidate of Sciences – she felt her knowledge was not enough to teach in Europe. “To be smart myself, it is important to interact with smart people, to interact with people from another culture, to be a part of the scientific society,” three-time PhD owner explains.
Ternopil National University had a co-operation agreement with Estonian Business School. “The opportunity to study there was actually offered to my younger brother,” Averkyna laughs. “But he didn’t speak enough English, so I asked if I could go in his place?”
Fascinating small cities
Averkyna came to Estonia six years ago. “I’m interested in small cities. In their structure, density, population. My previous research was about sustainable development of cities, I wanted to follow the same line of research. But it is impossible to analyse everything in a city,” she explains. “So, I decided to take a subsystem – public transportation.”
The dissertation was named: „Situation Similarity Calculus Based Modelling of Decision-making Processes in Urban Transportation Management”.
Averkyna conducted interviews in many different Estonian towns – Haapsalu, Kuressaare, Põlva, Valga, Sillamäe, Võru, Viljandi, Rakvere, Jõhvi, Maardu, and Keila. She also spoke to the Road administration, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication, and other authorities.
“It wasn’t easy to get the appointments,” she laughs. “From my first ten emails only three got a response. I explained that to my supervisor Peeter Lorents, he helped me a lot – found the responsible people, called them, organised the meetings.”
Averkyna’s main goal was to create an urban transportation model based on Estonian towns that could be implemented to other small cities as well. She compared the public transportation system in Ukraine and Estonia based on a qualitative analyse. “The aim was to analyse your urban transportation management and see what can be implemented to our system.”
Bus-driver was counting passengers
What surprised Averkyna most, was how flexible and passenger friendly Estonian public transportation management is. “In our country corruption is a huge problem. The way the managers in Estonia want to improve their field, to make it more convenient to the passengers, is very different from Ukraine. It feels like we live in the 20th century, whilst Estonia lives in the 21st,” she laughs.
The researcher was also amazed how in Estonia people always get answers to their complaints. “For example, when they complain about the schedule, the local governance does their best to change it. I’m surprised that such a request would be answered at all.”
She remembers a driver who wrote down the number of passengers getting on or off the bus at each stop. “According to this, the transportation plan and schedule was later adjusted.”
She notes that even though in Estonia the transportation managers like their work and want to improve their current situation, they can also be closed and stuck in their daily routines. “Some didn’t have any long-time strategic plan. Like for five years. It can be because they have established routines and just follow them. My questions stirred up the routine.”
PhD in spite war
Averkyna’s doctoral thesis defence in Estonian Business School was planned already for December 2022. Due to the war, she was unable to exit her country. “The war – it’s our reality,” she sighs. “When the war started, I received a letter from Meelis Kitsing, the rector of EBS, to come and stay in Estonia.” She decided to stay in Ukraine.
“I didn’t want to leave my family. My younger brother is a soldier, we had to sort out his clothes, shoes etc,” Averkyna explains. “I bought him an armour and a telescope. He had a health condition that would have exempted him from military service, but he went to the war anyway. He said, he needs to be there.”
Averkyna notes that Ukraine’s military system is based on voluntary donations. “We supported our soldiers the best we could. Every day we bought them medicines, food etc. Anything we could send them.”
“The war changes your values,” she notes. “A friend of mine said, she is so happy that they don’t own a flat or a car, so they can’t be destroyed by the Russian bombs. This period helped me to understand how crucial it is to have a community of good friends.”
“Of course, this negative situation influences your mood a lot,” she admits. “How can you work with sirens or when your room is very cold?” When her mood was very poor, she tried to remember conversations with her supervisor. “Now, the best thing I can do for my country is to study and share my knowledge. What cannot be destroyed, is my memory, my knowledge.”
Averkyna is happy to be a part of Estonian Business School family. “It has been a beautiful period in my life. The environment is nice here, everybody is open and friendly. I have learned a lot both about Estonian educational system as well as the transportation.”
You can read the full doctoral dissertation at https://ebs.ee/en/doctoral-theses