RIA “Voronezh” continues its special project “Foreign Voronezh.” The project participants are foreigners who live, work and study in the region. They will share their observations about living in Voronezh. Outside perspective is an opportunity to see the advantages and disadvantages, to become better and to make Voronezh more interesting and hospitable.

The hero of this issue is 24-year old Lyla Satri from the island of Madagascar who has been living in Voronezh for five years. In 2018, the Malagasy (it is what Madagascar natives call themselves) graduated from the VSU and received her diploma in chemistry. The girl isn’t going to return to her homeland – she has recently married a Voronezh resident, deacon of a Lutheran church Sergei Frolov.

About the motherland and family


– My hometown is Maintirano. It is a small town compared to Voronezh. In Voronezh people get very surprised when they learn I’m from Madagascar. They think it is an uninhabited island where only animals live. They have this impression because of the “Madagascar” cartoon.

I’m from the ethnic group of Sakalava tribe which stands for “long cat” in Malagasy. Each tribe has its own marks of distinction. Sakalava girls make drawings on their faces in the form of white flowers. It is not just a decoration but also an everyday necessity – the dye made from the roots of a Masunzuani tree protects skin from sunrays. In Voronezh I’ve decorated my face this way only for a student festival.

My parents are businessmen, they sell furniture and raffia – fibers made from leaves of a tree that grows only on Madagascar. It is a very solid fiber 1-2 centimeters thick which can be used to make bags or purses. It is also used in flower shops for decorating bouquets. My younger sister studies in Moscow to become a journalist.

Why did I choose Russia for education? Back at home chemist is a very in-demand specialty in pharmacy and medicine. You have an advanced chemical industry while on Madagascar it is only being established. In addition, it is easier to obtain a Russian visa than a European one.

About the Russians


– When I first came to Russia, I had a hard time getting used to Russian faces: all Russian were identical to me. At the same time I still can’t get used to everyone looking at me when I walk down the street. I get embarrassed: I immediately start to think that there is something wrong with my face.

On Madagascar, it is common to smile and respect each other. Russian people don’t like to smile. But if you come to my island looking gloomy, the locals will be offended.

There are ten of my fellow countrymen living in Voronezh. They helped me get settled in at first. Every year on June 26 we celebrate the Day of Madagascar’s Independence from France together (before 1960, Madagascar was a French colony).

About Russian language


– At first I “spoke” with gestures in the street – not many people know English here. My homeland has two official languages: Malagasy and French. I had a hard time learning Russia. It is difficult to remember the prefixes: edu – priedu, zaedu (coming – will arrive, will come by); rezhu – razrezhu, otrezhu (cutting – will split, will cut off). It is hard to understand how to choose the right word form.

About the Voronezh rhythm


– I like Voronezh because of its calm and ordered life tempo. There is no haste typical for such large cities as Moscow. Here I grew fond of going to the Opera and Ballet Theatre and to the Philharmonic Hall. There is an opera and ballet theatre on Madagascar too, but people rarely go there.

One of my favorite places in the city is Dinamo Park (currently the Central Park). In most Voronezh public gardens and parks there isn’t enough children’s recreation sites. For example, Koltsov Public Garden is a beautiful oasis in summer heat, but it is not fit for children’s recreation.

As opposed to Voronezh, on Madagascar there are no busy highways and roads, so many people drive bicycles – there isn’t a lot of cars. I really miss bicycle rides in Voronezh. But, unfortunately, the city is completely unfit for cyclists, so I’m afraid of driving a bicycle here.

I can’t get used to hot Voronezh public transport somehow not equipped with conditioners. During summer they turn into fire-breathing furnaces – I don’t understand, how can people bear it?

About Usmanka and siesta


– In Voronezh I go swimming to Usmanka River. Your beaches aren’t that bad – for example, on Madagascar people cannot go swimming wherever they want, only in specially designated areas.

When it is hot, I think of siesta common on my island – an everyday resting time from 12:00 to 14:00. Stores close for this period. Many people take a sleeping break: some go home to sleep, some rest right in the cafes.

About the Capital Repairs Fund fees


– I Russia, I still find it hard to come to terms with monthly housing and public utility bills. On Madagascar, people live in private houses and pay only for electricity and water. Our houses are not provided with natural gas, we buy gas in barrels. So at first I couldn’t understand why I was supposed to pay the monthly Capital Repairs Fund fee. On Madagascar, everyone repairs his house by himself.

About the cuisine and food prices


– Russian food seemed unusual to me at first. Madagascar is in the tropics, so we have fruit and vegetables the year round. And here it’s mostly potatoes. I had a hard time deciding what to buy for dinner and supper. Now I like solyanka (spicy Russian soup) and black bread most of all in Russian cuisine. I remember that I used to hate black bread when I first came to Voronezh. And now I buy it almost every time.

Five years later, I still miss fruit and vegetable from by homeland. For example, it is impossible to find good mangos, papaya or anana leaves in Voronezh. I miss fresh fish, langoustines and crabs freshly caught in the Indian Ocean.

Traditional Madagascar food is cooked with coconuts – there is plenty of it on the island. It includes not only desserts but also meat and fish stewed in coconuts. I cook home-made coconut meals – not a single Voronezh restaurant has such food yet. The meat must be cut into pieces, stewed in tomato sauce and then complemented with coconut milk. You may also add beans. It is important not to put a cover on it. As for desserts popular On Madagascar, there are gunju-gunju cakes with coconuts and rice flour.

On Madagascar it is common to eat rice everyday. Our Sakalava folk cook balahaza – the root of a tree that tastes like potatoes and can be combined with meat. As for meat, the locals eat mostly beef – it is the cheapest meat on the island. Chicken costs a bit more. The most expensive meat on the island is pork.

Food prices in Voronezh stores and markets are much more expensive that back at home. In Voronezh, beef costs three times more. On Madagascar, you can live for a whole month for 100 dollars.

About marriage and family traditions


– It was very hard for me to decide to stay in Voronezh, because I have a family left back home. I noticed that to Russian women career comes first, and only then comes family. And in my homeland it is vice versa.

I met my future husband three years ago. We recently got married at a Lutheran church. And we will also have a wedding ceremony on Madagascar. Back at home, the main part of the wedding ceremony takes place at a church. Even our word for wedding means a church ceremony. Signing at the registry office is not that important.

Families on Madagascar are large. The head of the family is the husband who makes all the decisions. Children are raised not only by parents by also by grandparents, aunts and uncles. AS compared to Russia, parenting on Madagascar is stricter. Madagascar children have to be afraid of their parents, obey and respect them unquestionably.

On Madagascar there is a tradition: a woman doesn’t do anything for three months after giving birth. All this time she rests while her relatives – her mother or aunt – help her. And in Russia women dive into taking care of their children already at the maternity clinic, often going without help from their close ones.

About life on Madagascar


– On Madagascar nature is beautiful, but the political situation is unstable. The locals want to leave the island but have trouble receiving visas. For example, only a few lucky ones get Schengen visas. At the same time, tourists who come to the island receive visas right at the airport with not problem.

Our country is still hugely influenced by France. For example, Madagascar is rich with sapphires and gold, but all of it is sold in the West, mostly in France. The Malagasy business community is struggling, businessmen are being strangled with high tax rates. At the same time, foreign businessmen are given all the conditions for development.

Young people dream of studying to become engineers, programmers, journalists, pilots. But everyone has trouble getting employed. Many Malagasy have higher education certificates, but they can’t get a job. But for foreigners coming to our country finding a job is easier, not to mention that people with foreign citizenships have bigger salaries.

By the way, the level of secondary school education on Madagascar is quite high. I realized that when I came here and studied alongside students from different countries.

As for higher education, in my country many people want to have one, but not everyone manages to enter state universities due to strong competition. There isn’t enough infrastructure for everyone to get higher education. At state medical universities there isn’t enough practical training – students practically study theoretics alone. At the same time, when I studied at the VSU, we had quite the amount of practice.

About souvenirs


– I mainly bring pictures of the city, magnets and Matryoshka dolls as gift from Russia to my family, sometimes – Voronezh candy. I like it that in Russia each region has its own confectionery industry, and the candy is different. For example, I like your “Koltsov’s Songs”. There is no such thing on Madagascar – the confectionery industry is centralized.