ASTANA – Being thousands of kilometres from what one calls “homeland” could, with time, easily erase anyone’s identity. Yet despite the migratory nature of the current day, Kazakh citizens on the other side of the planet are making efforts to disseminate information about their country, break stereotypes and remember the best of their homeland.
“I have been living in Argentina for 16 years and migrated here with my family,” said Centro Kazajo (Centre of Culture of Kazakhstan) head Irina Vagner in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times. The centre, in Rosario, Argentina, is the only one in South America.
Originally from Almaty,Vagner’s mother needed to live by the ocean due to health reasons and at the time they had friends permanently residing in Argentina.
“I haven’t been back in Kazakhstan since I moved to Argentina,” she said. “My brother travels back quite often, so I am informed about the motherland from a reliable source, so to speak. Besides, I keep in touch with acquaintances and friends from Almaty and Astana. I am really homesick; I especially miss Almaty and the Medeo ice rink that I used to visit every Sunday. No doubt the establishment of the centre [Centro Kazajo] relieves my homesickness a little, as I constantly speak about Kazakhstan.”
Vagner added she would like to visit Kazakhstan in 2017 with members of the centre.
“Our centre was established in November 2014 in Rosario, the second largest city in Argentina, at my initiative with the help and support of my husband Gustavo Gutiérrez and the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Brazil,” she said.
Throughout the years the centre has been active in various events, from presenting national clothes and dishes to telling about the country’s well-known people and achievements.
“Among our priorities are a declaration of Almaty and Rosario as twin cities, creation of a national Kazakh dance troupe and launching Kazakh language-speaking courses,” said Vagner.
The centre is also planning to include evenings of national music and cuisine, showing Kazakh films and exhibiting paintings by the nation’s artists.
“We also want to install a three-metre monumentreplica of the Baiterek Tower in one of the restaurants in Rosario,” she said.
The members are mostly volunteers and once a month the centre organises a dinner to thank them for their hard work.
“There is very little information about Kazakhstan in Argentina. We tell [them] about the beautiful nature, traditions, Kazakh hospitality and of course about the impressive economic development in the past 15 years,” she said.
“Argentines know about Gennady Golovkin, about Baikonur. Some mistake life in Kazakhstan by comparing it with the film ‘Borat,’ but I always reply to that with the brilliant answer of Nursultan Nazarbayev that there can’t be bad advertising. I think the main goal of our centre is to popularise Kazakhstan in Latin America,” said Vagner.
The majority of Kazakh citizens in Argentina are contractors with international companies engaged in different walks of life, including private entrepreneurship.
“I personally would like to note the unquestionable need for promotion of Kazakhstan and its culture in Argentina. Our country interests Argentines at different levels; the Argentines as a whole have a reasonably-high level of culture and are open to everything unfamiliar and different from the usual for them. I am sure that our desire to move in this direction and assistance from the Kazakh authorities may greatly assist the speedy achievement of this goal,” said Vagner.