Zawde Berhanu was born in Ethiopia in the province of Arsi in the year
1930. He is one of the absolute forerunners of immigrants here in Finland.
He came here as early as 1953 and this means that he has been living here
already for astonishing 65 years!!
He is now 88-years old and is living in Helsinki, Finland. He is a proud
father of two and he has a keen interest in reading newspapers and books,
He was sent to Finland by the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie the 1st.
Having graduated from Addis Abeba Technical School with good grades, Zawde
was granted a scholarship to come to Finland. First he had a chance to
observe the Finnish leather industry in Kiukainen, Western Finland, under
the auspices of engineer Aarne Hellemaa.
After a short while, in a factory called Satanahka, Zawde realized that
leather products are not among his interests. He talked about it with Mr
Hellemaa who listened to Zawde and agreed that if studying to be an
architect is what he wanted, so be it! They stopped talking English
together and so Zawde had one year of very effective studying of Finnish
language. This gave him a solid base as one of the first foreigners to be
able to study in Finnish.
He moved to Espoo, Otaniemi and started to attend the courses of Helsinki
University of Technology as an auditor. After one year his studies really
started. When completing his successful studies he was graduated as an
architect in 1964. This gave him an opportunity to work for the City of
Espoo as an architect working in the field of town planning. He enjoyed his
work there so much so that he worked there until his retirement!
Zawde was also instrumental when the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church was
seeking to be established as an official religion in Finland. Zawde being
one of the applicants, the official status was given to this Church in the
year 2004 by the Ministry of Culture.
The life and works of Zawde Berhanu are unique in the history of Finland.
His story should be known by Finnish people in general and more importantly
with those Finns who have their background somewhere else on this planet.
His willingness to study and improve his life conditions by his own actions
is an example to us all.
When asked what is an achievement that Zawde rates high in his life, he
” My age! I am happy that I have lived a healthy life. We all can affect
our health by our choices! “
Joseph Owindi was the first black person to graduate at the university of Tempere in Finland. This surelly in some level made a path for all the rest of the Afrofinns community in terms academic goals.