Anatol Egbuna with one of his Harley-Davidsons at the Domadora y León Craft Beer Store. / J. RHODES

The determination of a boy who 'wasn't born to follow'

Anatol Egbuna moved from Germany to Frigiliana with his wife at the start of the pandemic

JENNIE RHODES

If Anatol Egbuna hadn't told me about his childhood first, I would have been pretty surprised by his story about the move to Frigiliana he, his wife Monika and their dog made in March 2020, as Europe went into lockdown right at the start of the Covid pandemic.

The couple had sold everything in Germany, had their lives, including Anatol's business packed up in a van, a Spanish property that they had bought in 2014 waiting for them in the village and nothing left in Germany.

They explain that few fuel stations and no hotels were open and the blue lights and the machine guns of police officers greeted them on German – French border.

Despite the setbacks, they managed to get across and although borders between provinces once they reached Spain were also closed, after a 39-hour journey, they finally made it to Frigiliana.

"We visited for three weeks in 2014 and in the last week we bought a house here," they laugh, adding that it was always their intention to move here permanently.

Back in Germany Anatol had done an apprenticeship in metal work and that is how he got into customising Harley-Davidsons. He continues to do this in Spain, but largely for customers outside of Spain.

At the same time he runs sightseeing tours by Harley-Davidson around the local area, offering motorbike enthusiasts an alternative way to get to know southern Spain. He explains that he has a number of bikes which he hires out and always accompanies his clients on the bespoke tours.

Anatol has also rediscovered his talent for drawing since he's been here and currently has an exhibition of his thought-provoking work at the Domadora y el León Craft Beer Store in Frigiliana. In case that isn't enough, he and Monika manage a finca with 400 mango and avocado trees.

However, the cross-Europe Covid trip was nothing compared to the dangerous journey he made in 1996, aged almost 18, when he fled the house of his abusive father and stepmother in Nigeria in an attempt to seek refuge with his mother in Germany.

His Nigerian father and German mother had met in the 1960s when they were both studying Architecture in Germany. When the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, ended in 1970, the couple moved to Warri in Nigeria, where Anatol, now 44, and his three sisters were born.

Abuse

However, in the early 1980s, on the pretext that her father was ill in Germany (although Anatol believes it was to get away from an abusive relationship), his mother returned to her homeland, leaving the four children behind.

Anatol speaks candidly about his life and says, "I'm an open book." After his mother left, there followed years of abuse, not only at the hands of his father and stepmother, but also because he is mixed race.

Although he explains that being white is seen as privileged in Nigeria, a person of mixed heritage is "the worst." He adds, "There is a word in Nigeria, 'Oyibo' which is the worst possible racist insult and is the equivalent of the N-word but aimed at white and mixed race people." That's what I would get called.

Despite his traumatic childhood, Anatol continued to go to school until he was 18. He explains that by that age he was 1.85 metres tall and weighed just 49 kilos. He still bears the physical scars of the beatings he received.

Unable to take anymore, he fled. A neighbour, who had known Anatol's mother, helped him to get the German embassy in Lagos. From there he, along with his younger sister Nneka, were helped by the embassy to get to Germany.

What Anatol and Nneka weren't prepared for was their mother's rejection. Unbeknownst to the teenagers, she had defied the authorities, sided with her ex-husband and bought two plane tickets to send the siblings straight back to Nigeria.

Fortunately for Anatol, he was almost 18 and therefore considered an adult. He was allowed to stay in Germany. However, Nneka's fate was not so lucky. At just 16, she was still a minor and needed to be with a guardian. As their mother had refused to accept them, the young girl was forced to travel back to Nigeria and back into the hands of her aggressive father and stepmother.

Two years later, aged 18, Nneka was finally able to travel to Germany and she has gone on to have a successful music career, both in Europe and Africa.

Black and white

Anatol on the other hand, while able to stay and pave a way for himself in Germany, barely spoke the language and had been raised in Nigeria in a household where English and pidgin English were spoken.

Eventually life became easier, although not without experiencing the flip side of the racist coin.

Suddenly he was in a country where he was "the black guy". In fact Anatol has written two books, in German: 'Oyibo!!!' and 'Neger!!!' which describe his experiences as a victim of racism both as a white and a black person.

While living in Germany he was regularly invited into schools to talk about the books and his experiences. Anatol is now planning to write a book about his life in English.

He worked and studied, first doing an apprenticeship in metal work and then progressing to a qualification in engineering. This led him to start his company, Custom Metal, through which he customises Harley-Davidson motorbikes, which is the company he brought with him to Spain from Germany.

The backstory of this Harley-Davidson enthusiast and talented artist is hard to take in.

He comes across as very relaxed and is an all-round friendly and very approachable guy. But Anatol is philosophical "I wasn't born to follow," he says and jokes that the words, which have become his motto in life, are part of the song 'We weren't born to follow', by American rock band, Bon Jovi, "I said it first, Bon Jovi stole the words from me," he jokes.