The world has become colourful. On the streets of larger European cities you can hear not only the native languages of those countries but also a whole lot of others. Some of the people passing through the streets are tourists – they call by for a moment, but they will not stay for long. Somewhere among them, however, are those who came and decided to stay. Let’s look at the place where you can get to know the most stories of people who have settled in Slovenia.
A unique street
I myself came just for a moment to study. I am not local. I started the adventure with Ljubljana by getting to know the city. Restaurants, cafes, museums, clubs, pubs. My new friends told me: “Go to Trubarjeva, you will find flavors from all over the world.” I was curious about everything, every place was new and fascinating, so I was happy to follow this advice. Trubarjeva begins innocently, from Prešeren square, with several stores. Nothing special, just an ordinary street. But just go a few steps further to find yourself in a different world. It is colorful and multicultural. And I really met the cuisines of the world and the most from the Black Continent. At number 56, I finally find a place that everyone only talks about well. My first time with Skuhna was however not meant to have dinner, but to take part in a language tandem. At that time, I did not know what place I landed in. For me, it was like a jump to another world – as if crossing the threshold of that place I teleported to Africa and the Middle East at once. Afterwards I kept coming back like enchanted – for next events, discussions and meetings with migrants. For four months of staying in Slovenia, without leaving Ljubljana, I have visited a large part of Africa and several Asian countries, getting to know their residents, listening to what they have been through and what was happening in their countries, trying their food. And I have learned more about myself than I could have ever expected. I have found that fear has its roots in ignorance, so the only way to stop being afraid of migrants is to meet them and try to get to know each other. Skuhna does this job very well.
Let it begin
Today Max Zimani is the head of Skuhna. I remember him from one of the language tandems. He wanted to greet us, say a few words about the place where we are, why this all is happening. Even then it seemed to me that this man had an open mind and a lot of wise things to say. You can feel the peace and a thirst for equality between people coming from Max. That is how I will remember him. As it turned out a man who sees the world this way is not made to sit still. Max came here 30 years ago, when Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, as a student. He quickly noticed the great lack of knowledge of the local people about Africa, which prompted him to become an activist. He was involved in events of the African Student Association and African Center. From this involvement in 2010 the Global Institute was created, under which wings an idea for Skuhna was born.
Max’s involvement allowed obtaining funds to start the undertaking. Initially, Skuhna operated in the area of catering. Between 2012 and 2015, the help of migrants and volunteers allowed opening an independent restaurant on Trubarjeva, which main goals are the social inclusion of migrants and multiculturalism. And so it happens. Max remembers the main reason for opening the restaurant: the problem with the lack of opportunities for migrants on the labor market. Year to year, employment in Slovenia is dropping down within its citizens, the situation is even worse within migrants. Now Skuhna employs people from the Global South, they are mainly citizens of such countries as Kenya, India, Pakistan, Syria, Bangladesh, Iran, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. – They [migrants] are not passive recipients of skills, they are also active – they share their stories, they share their food, they share their time. We believe that through this the gap is bridged. According to Max such problems as lack of language knowledge or cultural differences do not exist in Skuhna because what matters is whether someone can cook and is ready to share their abilities in exchange for experience. Those who work in Skuhna often develop enough to then handle a different and better job. It is the most precious thing that this place can give them.
Power from Nigeria
One of the people employed in Skuhna is Sharon. It soon turned out that I had more in common with her than I thought. Years ago Sharon first immigrated to Poland where a part of her family already resided. She started studying at a private university in Warsaw, then planned to do her Master’s degree in the United States and return to Nigeria, where she came from, for good. However, on the road to these plans, there was love, the same as in the case of Max. In Poland, Sharon met her current husband, of Slovenian origin, who says that he is an African in white skin. Then they had to decide where to settle their life. Slovenia won. For the first three years it was terribly hard to find a job for Sharon, she worked mainly as an English teacher. Then, for some time, she worked as a volunteer at the African Center and heard about Skuhna there. She began to work there to learn the language faster. It is actually the main feature of Sharon – she knows that she wants more from life and does everything to achieve it. . – I was determined because when I came to Slovenia I was told the same thing that if you don’t know the language, you can’t get a job so I really wanted to learn this language so I can get a job, I can’t just come here and waste my life. I’ve met a lot of people who have been here for 10 years and they cannot speak the language so I looked at myself and said: no, I don’t want to be like that, I want to learn so that I can move forward, so I can have something for myself. Sharon dreams that she will establish her own company one day and will really start developing herself. However, she also thinks that one day she and her husband and son will go to Nigeria for a longer period. She wants to give her child a chance to see the world from Africa’s perspective.
Black and white
From my perspective, Ljubljana does a good job. I perfectly understand why most of those, who left their countries for some reason, do not want to leave from here. Max, however, spots a problem. – You could be born anywhere and have the very good job and life here but if they look at you and they see that your skin is dark, they have their own ideas, so based on their ideas, they can treat you differently. There is racism in Slovenia for sure, I mean, as long as people deny the existence of white privilege then there will be racism. There is something in it since I often think in the category of the stereotype of “a man from the third world”. Sharon is standing on the other side and with optimism sums up how the world is different and undeniably beautiful through it. – We are all beautiful but in different ways. She is right and this diversity should also mean equality. Skuhna teaches us that a different skin color should not matter because we are all just equally important as people. I would like to live in a moment when we will all understand it.
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