I am Tatiana Okhuocha from Novopolotsk, Belarus.
In Novopolotsk I went to college and worked as a seamstress. My friend, Svetlana, dated a Nigerian, who was studying at a university in Novopolotsk. Once, Svetlana’s boyfriend asked me to carry a suitcase of clocks from the Novopolotsk clock factory “New Ray” to his brother in Moscow who was returning to Nigeria for the holidays. I agreed because I would get the chance to see Russia’s capital, a life-long dream of mine. It was 1991 – a new Russia was being born.
Elton Eizefule, Svetlana’s boyfriend’s brother, hosted me well during my visit. He showed me the Institute of Steel and Alloys where he studied, the city parks, the Moscow River and other famous attractions. I left Moscow enthralled with what I had seen and immediately told all my friends at home about the fairy-tale I’d just lived.
A few days later Elton called. We quickly became good friends, and in time, fell in love with one another. I left for Moscow after the wedding and moved into a university dorm with Elton. After the birth of our first child, who we named Elton, the university gave us a separate room in the family dormitory. To help us survive I sewed dresses, suits and pants at night, while during the day I nannied. So we lived, for as long as my husband was studying at the Institute. While still at the institute I had another child, a daughter named Faina.
After finishing his degree my husband returned to Nigeria in order to find work, and then, as he said, “I will definitely bring all of you to Nigeria.” Meanwhile, I was kicked out of the dormitory. I couldn’t return home because my mother didn’t want to see me with black-skinned children. She had been categorically against the marriage from the beginning. I ended up a single mom in Moscow with two children and no apartment. It was difficult to find work – I had no registration papers – and even more difficult to pay for a room. I worked as a seamstress, waitress, and nanny in order to support the family. My husband called occasionally and told me how difficult it was to find work in Nigeria. We eventually lost hope of seeing him again.
The children are growing up. Elton’s already 19 and an excellent student. Despite our difficult living conditions nothing seemed to bother him, and he played sports and read all the time. I’m a lucky mother because I have never had to drag him out of bad company. Faina is 15, helpful around the house – she’s learned to cook and clean the apartment to perfection. Along with primary school, she’s also studied at the Zaitsev school and dreams of becoming a model with her beautiful figure and height and love of high heels.
I know that many mothers who come to Metis for help have nearly an identical fate to mine. We’ve already been with the fund for 11 years. Metis has educated us, helped us to move up in society – the monthly help with groceries allows me to work one job and spend more time with my children. I always tell the other mothers in the fund, “You must love your children and do everything you can for them so that they do not feel unimportant or inferior, but instead cultivate in themselves self-confidence.
Elton now studies at the Medical Institute and supports himself without anyone’s help. Faina is finishing school. We are renting a very small room, far from downtown Moscow, but for which I am able to pay. My husband still has never sent for us from Nigeria.