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Nigerian Wins Ukrainian Poetry Recital Contest

Ayo Osikoya reads poetry in Donetsk.

Ayo Osikoya reads poetry in Donetsk.

A 20-year-old Nigerian college student, Ayo Osikoya, has stunned the residents of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk with his talent for reading poetry. In fact, Osikoya's emotive delivery of verses by the Ukrainian national poet, Taras Shevchenko, won out over recitations by native Ukrainian speakers to earn him first prize in a local poetry-reading competition in March.

Osikoya's Ukrainian odyssey began two years ago in Lviv, in western Ukraine, where he learned Ukrainian in just seven months. After mastering the language well enough to study, he enrolled at Donetsk Technical University -- widely regarded as Ukraine's best university for technical studies -- to fulfill his dream of becoming a computer engineer.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Osikoya said that he liked both Donetsk and Lviv. "Lviv has more culture; Donetsk has more industry. I can't tell you which city I like more -- I like both of them," he said.

Osikoya's talent for interpretive reading was noticed by Luzia Dobrovolska, the director of a Donetsk cultural center. It was she who helped him prepare for the Shevchenko reading competition. Dobrovolska noted that Osikoya's interpretive style is very emotional, with his eyes closed and a hand placed over his heart.

Osikoya plans to return to Nigeria and start his own business after he completes his studies. But for now, he remains an inspiration to those who love Ukrainian poetry.

-- Olga Dorovskykh and Irena Chalupa

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