August Okwara: ‘No racial prejudice observed in Belarus unlike many other countries of the world’
Interview with the man from Nigeria, who decided to stay in Belarus
Eleven years ago, a fit young man from Nigeria, aged 31, August Okwara, shocked friends and relatives by moving to Belarus - where snow falls. Foremost, he aimed to receive an education; secondly, he sought to see a different part of the world. Happily, he met his future wife in Belarus, and decided to stay.
August chose our Republic for his education due to it being affordable and high quality. After graduating from the Belarusian State Agrarian Technical University (specialising in mechanical engineering), he gained employment at a Minsk construction site.
He fell in love with a Belarusian lady, they married, and now have two children: a boy and a girl. The family live in Mogilev but August works in Minsk; every weekend, he comes home to his wife and children, with presents.
‘Local education rivals European but is reasonably priced’
You came to Belarus to study but decided to stay. Do you regret anything?
Of course not. You are right: I initially came to gain an education but I was happy to fall in love with a wonderful Belarusian. She was working here and refused to leave the country, so I chose to remain in Belarus forever. We married and are now bringing up two wonderful babies.
Why did you choose Belarus?
Local education is much cheaper than in the West but of no lesser standard. Moreover, I love the local environment: it’s safe and clean here. Everything is in order and, importantly, Belarus lacks any racial prejudice. Black-skinned people do not feel equally comfortable everywhere, unlike white-skinned people.
You probably discovered this after moving here but what did you know of Belarus beforehand?
Thanks to the Internet, I knew everything I needed to. However, as it turned out, information online only scratches the surface. Everything is much better in reality.
I love travelling the world, visiting various countries, and I can say in honesty that Belarus ranks second for me as the most beautiful of states (behind Singapore).
Did you take long to get used to the country? Nigeria differs so greatly from Belarus.
You might not believe me but the differences are not as great as you might think, thanks to globalisation. Life in some African states is almost the same as in Europe.
‘Belarusian winter is not as horrible as it’s reputed to be’
How did you find our Belarusian winters?
Of course, our climate differs greatly. However, your winter is not as horrible as it’s reputed to be. I’ve become used to Belarusian frosts very quickly.
What’s the coldest temperature in Nigeria, on average?
How do Belarusians accept you? And was it a challenge to find a job here?
I learnt that tolerance is considered to be a major feature of the Belarusian character; no better description of a nation could be invented! Nowhere else in the world have I seen such a good attitude towards people of different race and religion.
I felt some prejudice myself about coming to Belarus but had no problems at all finding a job.
Which other Belarusian features stand out for you?
Belarusians arouse only positive emotions, and the country itself is wonderful. I love that no restrictions exist here; you can live as you wish, as long as you obey the law. You can take work and earn a living.
‘My salary is enough for me to keep my family and lack nothing’
Do you earn enough?
Most people feel that they never have enough money. However, the problem is that they want to live beyond their income, whatever that may be. You need to decide how you wish to live and plan your expenditure accordingly.
‘Belarusian cuisine is tasty and nutritious’
How do you entertain yourself in Belarus?
I love spending time with my family. Clubs, casinos and night life are of no interest to me. At weekends, I love to watch football on TV — with my son. I’m a great fan of Belarusian BATE, never missing a home match.
How often do you go to Nigeria?
I regularly visit, with my family. My parents still can’t believe that temperatures drop to minus 20°C here. They are shocked that, in such weather, people don’t just stay indoors, rather than go to work.
Do you ever wish to return to your homeland?
Nigeria shall always remain my native country. However, I already view myself as Belarusian. My wife and my children are Belarusian, so I have no wish to leave.