How hard Slovenia works
Piran is located in the extreme southwest of Slovenia. So far, the coastal city with 17,000 inhabitants was only known for its picturesque old town, the good climate and the nearby salt pans. But on Sunday, the Ghanaian doctor Peter Bossman won the runoff election for mayor with 51.4 percent - the 54-year-old is now the first black mayor in Eastern Europe. Slovenian media call him "Obama from Piran".
SZ: Good afternoon Mr. Bossman. Or should I say Mr. Obama?
Bossman: Oh no! It is an honor to be compared to President Obama. But I am me, not Obama. I just want to be the mayor of Piran, create better internet connections and promote electric cars. I was not elected because I am black, but because I want to do a lot differently than my predecessor.
SZ: That sounds like "change" after all. You won't take up office until November, but you've already brought a little change to Piran. At least everyone knows your city now.
Bossman: It's incredible. I knew that I would be the first black mayor in Slovenia and, if you like, Central Europe too. But I didn't think the whole world would care. CNN called me, the BBC, Radio France - I've been on the phone all day.
SZ: Your success is so remarkable because racism and xenophobia are unfortunately still an ongoing issue in large parts of Europe. And especially in the Balkans, not even people who speak the same language get along with each other.
Bossman: Piran is very different. There are only three or four other blacks. But so many people of different origins live here: Italians, Croats, Bosnians. We are a very tolerant city.
SZ: Do you annoy that your success is now reduced to the color of your skin?
Bossman: If my story makes a mark, then it's worth it. I like to be a role model for others who are politically marginalized. Anyone who works hard and believes in themselves can succeed.
SZ: Naomi Campbell said that as a black model, she would have had to give 110 percent to get to the top. Definitely more than their white counterparts. You came to Ljubljana to study medicine in 1977, met your wife and stayed. How hard did you have to fight?
Bossman: When I started my practice, I also had to work at least twice as hard as others to gain people's trust and prove that I was a good doctor. But now people know me and some patients have said: I'm not voting you, Mr. Bossman, I want to keep you as a doctor.
SZ: Sounds like you're perfectly integrated. However, there are a few ugly comments on the Internet, including your YouTube videos.
Bossman: A few racist remarks, that's true. But I've lived in Europe for so long, I have a Slovenian wife and two children, and I'm happy with who and how I am. Such remarks can no longer hurt me. I am an African-born Slovenian by choice and I am proud of it.
SZ: Integration is also a big issue in Germany right now. In your opinion, what is the most important thing in order to feel at home in another country?
Bossman: You can't just do everything as you are used to at home. You have to leave a lot behind. I don't mean religion or the way you dress, it's often the little things. In Ghana, for example, it is completely normal to just drop by a friend's house when you feel like talking. Here in Slovenia, I quickly realized that I couldn't do that: my friends looked very funny when I stood in their front yard without prior notice. They want you to call ahead quickly and they want you to be on time.
SZ: How about the language. I read, you still need to take a little tutoring in Slovenian?
Bossman: I read that too, in the foreign media, and that's nonsense. Mastering the language is of course very important. And my Slovenian is not perfect, but very good. I'm a doctor and my Slovenian is enough to be mayor.
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