Nigerian students who escaped Russia’s ongoing military offensive in Ukraine have narrated how they were almost shot by soldiers for fighting against racism.
The war, which has led to the death of hundreds of civilians and troops, leaving thousands injured and many more displaced, has seen millions of foreign nationals fleeing Ukraine for neighbouring countries.
Some of the returnees who fled Ukraine to Romania said they were almost shot while trying to escape the invasion.
Anuoluwakintan Olawoye, a 300-level medical student at the University of Ternopil, said apart from the racial discrimination, she starved, trekked and stood for long hours. She noted that the reports of the invasion and bombs going off in different parts of the country were enough to plant fears in anybody, but that she was happy she was able to escape.
She said, “I do not wish my enemy what I went through, even though mine was not as bad as others’. There was a curfew, we starved because there was nothing to buy, no store opened and sirens blared every time! No taxis to move from one place to another. We had to trek for hours. The city was becoming vacant. We couldn’t sleep knowing that the country was at war.
“On Thursday morning, there was a bombing in Kyiv but thankfully I was in Ternopil so I escaped. Again on Friday, some parts of Lviv were bombed; Lviv is two hours journey away from Ternopil.”
Olawoye said she made for the Romanian border after trekking for hours but on getting there, she found that preference was given to Ukrainian citizens.
She added, “We got to the border around 4 pm and we were told to wait. We waited till 8 pm and they didn’t allow us (blacks) to go inside. We attempted to make a move when they called on women and children and they turned us back. They only allowed their citizens to go. It was two hours after they left that they said they would come back to us.
“We pleaded with the officers that the snow was much outside, I was shivering as a result but they did nothing. I crossed about 2 am and it was by luck. Some were not that lucky. The racism that I encountered at the Ukrainian border was not for the weak. They were pushing us aside just to allow their trucks to move. They shouted at us, pushed us and did all sorts.”
Olawoye, however, said she was treated very well in Romania, noting that she would be proceeding to meet her parents. She added that she would love to return to Ukraine to complete her studies once the war ends.
Also, Abraham Praise said she never believed she could experience such in her lifetime, especially with the bombs and missiles that had killed both troops and civilians in different parts of the country.
She said, “I trekked for three hours non-stop. I had friends who trekked for more hours. You just had to forget you have legs while you keep going. The thought of you keeping yourself alive would keep you going. Some people fainted along the road. The stronger ones among us had to give them support. I never thought I would have to experience something like this.”