Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
“Authentic Dutch villages are pure fairy tale“
Wladimir wants to start by straightening out the misunderstanding about the name of his country: “Foreigners often call Belarus White Russia. This is an ongoing discussion.” He explains that although his country was originally called ‘Rus’, this is not the same as Russia. “At one point in history, Belarus and the Netherlands had more in common than Belarus and Russia.” According to Wladimir, links between the latter two countries only became close towards the end of the eighteenth century. Having said this, nearly everyone in Belarus does speak Russian. “People aren’t allowed to speak the Belarussian language in my country. I don’t agree with the president about this: he’s not bothered about our language, but I think people should continue to speak it.”
Wladimir considers traditions and culture important. He would like to open a Dutch cultural centre in Belarus with his wife, where people could wear Dutch national costume and eat traditional Dutch food. “I love the architecture of authentic Dutch villages. They are pure fairy tale.”
Wladimir always knew that the world outside his own country had a lot to offer. He’s a keen traveller and has lived in Spain, France and the Netherlands. “I wanted to travel and experience the world beyond Belarus. Someone once called me a ‘travelling man’. I suppose that’s right”, says Wladimir. He arrived in the Netherlands sixteen years ago and met his wife at work. But it took until 2017 for him to be officially registered as living in the Netherlands, in Utrecht. His favourite pastime is visiting historic places. “I really love going to classical concerts, in the Dom Church or the Geerte Church, for example”, continues Wladimir.
In Belarus, Wladimir had a job in the cultural sector. “I’m well qualified with a good education and I set up numerous cultural projects in Belarus. I also acted in a Russian series.” He’s even done a bit of acting in the Netherlands; he played a KGB spy in an Escape Room.
Wladimir admires the Netherlands, particularly the fact that it has an independent parliament where real debates are held. “But people talk too much; actions speak louder than words. Power in Belarus is in the hands of one president, and this can be an advantage. If you need to build an infrastructure, for example.” Strangely enough, he’s a fan of the Dutch weather. “I don’t mind rain, the climate here is comfortable. You don’t have those harsh winters that we have. I hear people complaining but they don’t know how cold it can get. In Belarus, we have real winters, which last for four months of every year. It’s so cold, it marks the skin of the people who live there.”
But there’s one thing he still hasn’t got used to: going to a bar or restaurant to meet friends. Wladimir: “I was used to having people round to my home in Belarus. Going out is more of a habit here, not something you do on a special occasion. It gives the impression that people are on top of their lives.”
Name: Wladimir Maschagiraw
Year of birth: 6 April, 1971
Place of birth: Dovsk, Belarus
Motto: ‘Success is a journey, not a destination. Have faith in your abilities.’
Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.