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I, Eric Ngalle

One Man's Journey Crossing Continents from Africa to Europe
Eric Ngalle(Autor*in)
Parthian Books (Verlag)
1. Auflage
Erschienen am 20. August 2019
200 Seiten
ePUB mit Wasserzeichen-DRM
978-1-912681-21-1 (ISBN)
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Eric Ngalle thought he was leaving Cameroon for a better life... Instead of arriving in Belgium to study for a degree in economics he ended up in one of the last countries he would have chosen to visit - Russia. Having seen his passport stolen, Eric endured nearly two years battling a hostile environment as an illegal immigrant while struggling with the betrayal that tore his family apart and prompted his exit. This painfully honest and often brutal account of being trapped in a subculture of deceit and crime gives a rare glimpse behind the headlines of a global concern.

Eric Ngalle was born in Cameroon. After nearly a decade seeking sanctuary as a refugee, he eventually reached south Wales, where he studied modern history and popular culture at Cardiff Metropolitan University. In addition to being featured at Hay Festival and BBC, Eric earned a place to start an MA in creative writing at Cardiff University.
Chapter 1 Arriving in Russia I grew up in the village of Wovilla near Small Soppo in the shadow of Mount Cameroon. I had Africa in my blood but on passing my A-levels all I wanted to do was get the hell out of Cameroon-it was the only avenue open to me if I wanted to build myself a better life. With my father gone-along with any inheritance-and my mother being poor, the only way I could make this happen was through state sponsorship or a scholarship to a foreign university.
I had turned to the internet and contacted a Canadian immigration lawyer who said he had links to several universities and could advise on sponsorship and how I could study abroad. I eventually applied to two universities, one in Ontario, Canada, and the other in Bruges, Belgium. The first to offer me a place was the university in Belgium. I was very excited as it offered a way forward following the horror of being robbed of my inheritance and being on the point of committing murder-yet here I was on my way to the land of milk and honey. The university's offer, which was genuine and offered me a chance to study economics, was the only thing that could have rescued me.
My mother gave me what little money she could spare and I made my way to the capital, Yaoundé and then to Bastos, where all the embassies are situated, to finalise my travel arrangements-and yet to this day I haven't been to the Belgium Embassy.
Fortunately my sister lived in Yaoundé, so I had somewhere to stay, and the next day I made my way to Bastos and sat in a café where I was to meet an embassy official, or so I was led to believe. All around us people were talking about flying off to study in this university or that university in places around the world-I didn't realise at the time but this was all part of a plan to lure me in.
The embassy official took my passport and the small amount of money that I had managed to scrape together and disappeared telling me someone would be in touch soon. The next contact I had was with a different 'embassy official'-he was so horrible he even came to where I was staying and dated my sister. I had fallen into the hands of human traffickers and once your passport is in their hands, that's it. They start requesting money for this and money for that-what should have cost only £50 ends up costing you around £1,000.
I eventually ended up with a visa, which they told me would allow me to travel to Malta, from where I would be issued with a transit visa to go to Bruges. My mother, my sisters, my nieces and nephews were all at the airport to wave me off. Everyone was so proud and so happy-I was embarking on my hopes and dreams. When we touched down in Malta I disembarked from the aeroplane and waited in line for a connecting flight to Belgium. But when it was my turn and I handed over my passport and visa the guy looked at it and laughed saying, 'I'm sorry, but this is a one-way student visa to Russia.'
I had little choice but to swap lines and board the flight to Russia. There was no way I could ask the plane to take me back to Cameroon, I had to finish the journey. I thought that there must have been some error and that I could sort it out once I had arrived in Moscow. I was very naïve. I arrived at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on May 1, 1997, six months shy of my eighteenth birthday. When the immigration officer asked my name in perfect English, I could not speak, my lips were frozen. I had never felt such cold in my entire life. My hand shook as I held out my passport. She must have laughed inside as she stamped my passport with a wry smile and said, 'Welcome to Russia,' in her mother tongue. The gates were opened and I entered Russia for the first time. What went through my mind was I was here in Russia but my mother and my family did not know where I was-they thought I was on my way to Bruges. I wasn't scared at that point, just shocked-I had swapped the frying pan for the fire. I never really got angry with the people who had done this to me for, at that time, I was still processing the venom I had inside for what my father's family had done to me-if death had embraced me in Russia, I would have accepted it without grumbling.
The biggest shock I had was that I was surrounded by black people - I had expected Russia to be full of white folks. What I didn't realise at the time was that we were all victims of human traffickers. In the arrivals hall I was met by a welcoming committee of thin-looking black men and women, with red eyes, like something out of a British Red Cross pamphlet, all waiting for their prey. It was easy. Most of the people at the airport were lost or stranded and presented easy pickings when it came to scamming money. The new arrivals had money and needed to be amongst people they knew. You would be approached, lied to and taken somewhere on the outskirts of Moscow. When your money was finished, you would be left to your own devices, abandoned. If the Russian skinheads didn't finish you off, the severe Russian weather would.
Among the parasites you could see the well-dressed puppet masters, the human trafficking barons, surveying the unfolding tragedy of dashed hopes and ruined lives.
I just stood in the midst of it all and tried to take in my predicament. 'Where do I begin? Where do I go? Where are the gods of my ancestors? Why has such a curse been placed upon my young shoulders?'
Looking at the problem today, governments are doing things to tackle the situation but it is worse now and in countries such as Cameroon people are still victims-people still want to leave their country and if someone knows that, then you are easy prey for human traffickers-more so if you are a woman. The only solution is to have an economic balance in the world, otherwise everybody is leaving and there are too many channels to be exploited. Like in Russia.
Sheremetyevo International Airport, located around eighteen miles north west of Moscow, was a long way from home and a scary place; not least to someone who had expected to find themselves entering Belgium. The various universities had arranged for their students to be picked up but I did not recognise anyone. Not a single soul. As I was getting lost in my thoughts, a well-dressed man approached me and introduced himself as Diamond. 'How much money have you got?' he asked.
'Money?' I thought to myself.
I reached into my pocket and brought out 3,000 CFA francs, the equivalent of three US dollars. He looked at me and said, 'Why are you carrying francs? It's of no use to you here, you need dollars.' He took the money from my hand and walked off towards another group of students. I later realised that we were being screened into the haves and the have-nots. The only thing that saved me was that from the very first day they realised that I was broke. I was useless. If I had been a woman, I would have been put to many uses.
I reached into my bag; my mother had prepared some of my favourite food, corn cookies and egusi pudding, but they were frozen solid, inedible. I felt like crying. I looked around - the sky was unfamiliar, the cold was biting into my bones and I could not see the earth's horizon. A shadow of despair began to descend but fortunately-or so I thought at that point-Diamond came back and said I could jump on the bus with them to central Moscow. However, he added quickly, from central Moscow, I would be on my own and should start making alternative travel arrangements.
Around half an hour later I found myself in the capital city of one of the last countries on this earth that I would wish to settle in. One of the first things I noticed was that all the pedestrians were walking so fast. Central Moscow was even colder than the airport, my small jacket and blue jeans, which were only suitable for the Cameroonian summer, had been eaten up by the cold. I felt like I was inside a freezer, it was torture. Even the little rays of sun that pierced through the skies felt cold. I thought of my mother and wondered what she would say if she knew where I was at that point in time-at the airport in Douala, she'd taken my hands into hers and, one by one, she gave each of my fingers a gentle bite. In doing so, she begged for both God and my ancestors to guide my path and return me home safely.
I was awoken from my reflections by the student liaison officer who was sent by Stavropol State University to meet Diamond. She was shouting at prospective students to hand their passports over to her so she could get their train tickets. As I wondered what I should do, Diamond approached and, despite previously warning me I would be one my own, offered to help me. I later realised it was all part of his elaborate scam. He told me the price of the ticket was twenty-five dollars and that he was going to get my ticket for me, however, as soon as I received my money from Cameroon, I was to reimburse the money back to his girlfriend, Agatha, who was also at the airport with us.
The old chestnut about 'money coming from home' was often one that I used, it got me out of a lot of problems...

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