“I was born and raised in Belarus, and studied at the university in Moscow. There I met a Dutch man who I later married. We came here in 1983.
Amsterdam was very different to what I had imagined. I also arrived during a miserable period; the bin men were on strike and everything was rotting in the streets. I also found the surroundings very grey and dark. Despite this, I was still impressed. It was like landing right into a Han Andersen fairy tale. I had already been to Germany, Poland and Bulgaria, but Amsterdam has a class of its own. The architecture, the small size and of course the canals make it special. It’s like a theatre stage. I still get this feeling when walking its streets today.
After fifteen years of marriage my husband and I divorced. I am now married to a man who’s originally from the Ukraine, but has lived in Amsterdam for the past ten years. He is, just like me, a multicultural citizen. We both feel as if we are citizens of the world.
What I can’t get used to is the lack of romanticism. Amsterdammers are so practically minded. Even in love. Everything had to be discussed. There seems to be a lack of feeling. Even the bonds between Dutch families are different. In Belarus families are closer. Family means the world to everyone. We call each other every day to ask how things are. We want to know how everything and everyone is. We have family bonds in the same way as they do in Italy. But I never found emigrating here hard. I adjust. I never expected to stay here so long, but apparently it’s exactly what I’m looking for and I’ve certainly no plans for moving on.
I love everything about Amsterdam. It is a unique place. One of the most beautiful in the world. Not just the way it looks, but also other things, like the average Amsterdammers sense of creativity, the general friendliness and the rich artistic works it contains. Even in the kitchen, Amsterdam is special. You can find restaurants representing every country under the sun. Except from Belarus. You can actually compare it with Russian cooking. Heavy food to compliment the climate. It can become extremely cold in Belarus. And there’s no sea, so not much fish on the menu. A lot of red meat, vegetables and chicken. And a lot of soup. Like wild mushroom soup with dried porcini mushrooms and barley. Delicious! I do miss that quite a lot.”
205 people in Amsterdam have the Belarusian nationality