To some, when you mention Russia, the first thing that comes to them is racism! Russians are racists! They are mean and very hostile! They hardly laugh, maybe once in a blue moon, Russians are bullies/terrorists too.
Thanks to Hollywood, how else would these wonderful ideas have gone far? You see a Russian in a movie and you have automatically seen the terrible guy. I cannot remember watching any Hollywood movie where a Russian act is the hero. Can anything good come out of Russia?
This was the mindset I armed myself with when coming to the former Soviet Union.
“Be careful Niyi, don’t move too close to these racists unless you absolutely have to, they hate you; come on, they don’t even like other whites like themselves.”
But today, I can boldly tell you I have a different mindset now. I will be sharing some of my moments as a foreigner in Crimea.
Every nation has her yin and yang when it comes to receiving foreigners. It is just a matter of which reigns more or spoken about more. I want to specifically write the special fine treatments I have had here. There are definitely some bad times that I’ve heard of and seen, but I will be dwelling on the beautiful ones for the sake of the other side of the story. There is always an other side.
I have met Russians who went out of their ways to please me. One I will never forget is the beautiful lady who always came to clean my floor every morning. She was always eager to hug me and show me her smile. I was coming out of my room one cold morning, to the first floor when I met her. She hugged me, inspected my outfit for a moment and went,
“Don’t you know it’s so cold outside, you should go back in and wear something thicker!”
I smiled for some time and replied,
“Thank you, I’m not going out, I just want to get something downstairs.”
I felt special, somehow, I knew she might never have ‘cared’ for a student of her own race like that.
There is this sweet attraction Russians have towards foreigners like me. They come in form of smiles and welcoming eyes.
“Hey, be careful there.”
“Can I have a picture with you?”
“Will you taste this, it’s delicious!”
These and many more are the kind words I have heard several times.
I cannot count the number of times I and my friends have been called out of our way to have pictures with excited adults and children. I have also been spared of little payments, and given special discounts because I am Black, and interesting.
One night, I was in the kitchen making pancakes when my hostel’s security woman came in. She was doing the normal nightly inspection of all the floors. She saw me and stood, looking for some moments, observing how I was adding little spoonfuls of oil to the pan before pouring in the pancake mixture.
“Pancakes?” She asked.
“Yes.” I replied, waiting and ready to combat the racist statement or act that would get unleashed.
“I see,” she smiled and moved towards me. “Instead of spreading the oil on the pan every time, you can just add it to the mixture and fry directly, it’ll save you time and stress.”
I smiled at her, letting down my mental guard and feeling sorry. She wasn’t just interested in what I was cooking, she was also telling me a way she felt was better. I haven’t tried this method yet, I don’t know the reason for this, but one day, when I finally do, I’ll smile a bigger smile. I’m certain.
Being black in a foreign country is not all terrible memories for me.In Russia, even the bad guys are friendly.
Soogun Omoniyi is many things in one. He is the King of Flash Fiction, writer extraordinary, photographer, writography and doctor of words and humans. His short stories like pollen grains are scattered everywhere, just ask Google and you will be stunned. Find him on Facebook @ Soogun Omoniyi and on Instagram @Olabrown.
I really enjoyed this piece because it dealt with racial stereotypes and prejudice. It gives us the opportunity to see a different Russia. And I could also relate with most of his experiences. Like Russians, Filipinos are very friendly people, especially towards foreigners. I can’t count the number of times I took pictures and enjoyed deep conversations with strangers. Most times, being different becomes a magnet that pulls others close.
The series continues on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. So do remember to visit on those days as there are more eye-opening contributions and I do not want to enjoy them alone.
Share these articles online, discuss them with real life friends and virtual friends on social media, and above all, I will encourage us all to be civil.
The goal is not to foster hate as stated earlier, but to help us understand the unique interactions of different races in different countries.
How we became racial conscious/aware.
What led to racial stereotypes and prejudice?
Dealing with people of other races and how we can improve on our humanity.
Thank you and join me on this journey as we learn more On Race.
For More Reads