Ukraine War: Returnees narrate horrible experiences - OPID News

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Saturday, 5 March 2022

Ukraine War: Returnees narrate horrible experiences

 Ukraine War: Returnees narrate horrible experiences

No fewer than 775 Nigerians fleeing the intense bombings and missiles fired by Russia’s military forces had been flown back to the country.

SAHARAREPORTERS, NEW YORKMAR 05, 2022

Some Nigerians, who recently arrived in the country from Ukraine via Poland, Romania, Hungary, have narrated their ugly experiences in the war-torn country. 

No fewer than 775 Nigerians fleeing the intense bombings and missiles fired by Russia’s military forces had been flown back to the country. 

Some of the students narrated their war experience to PUNCH. 

A 300-level medical student of the University of Ternopil, Anuoluwakintan Olawoye, told the newspaper that she suffered not only racial discrimination but also starved, trekked and stood for long hours. 

According to her, reports of invasion and bombs in different parts of the country were enough to plant fears in anybody. 

She, however, said she was happy 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 4pm and we were told to wait. We waited till 8pm 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 well in Romania while she noted her desire to return to Ukraine to complete her studies once the war ends.

Another student, 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.”

The returned urged the Nigerian Government to assist those like her with therapy to get over the experience, saying people who survived war, no matter how distant, needed some counselling.

She said, “Everyone who has gone through this experience needs therapy. Although we are a strong people, to have made it out alive and be able to see your friends and families is exciting. For some of us, the future is still uncertain because of the disruption in our academics. I am in my third year while some others are in their final year and are meant to graduate in June.”

Praise added, “Although I am happy I would be seeing my family, this is not just the way I wanted it. But there is still life and there’s hope. If this is where we would have to start from to move ahead, we are ready.”

Rabia Zalka, who was in Ukraine with her sister, said she never thought she could make it back alive but returning to Nigeria alive despite the invasion, rising tension, the bombing of cities and even the capture of the Nuclear plant by the Russians, meant a lot to them.

“I didn’t think it was really serious until my sister and I walked a long distance to the Romanian border. I trekked for hours. It was not easy. We were keeping an eye on each other and helping each other,” said Zalka.

Another returnee, Peter Ajuwon, said the Ukraine war should serve as a lesson to Nigerians on the importance of peace.

He said, “War is not a favourable situation. Every aspect of life gets affected. I encourage people to embrace peace in Nigeria. Our experiences crossing the border to Romania were not pleasant. Getting to Romania was hell, but we had a pleasant experience in Romania. We got a lot of support from the Romanian government and the Nigerian Ambassador there. Some Romanian NGOs showed us love too; they didn’t discriminate.”

Mrs Zalka whose two daughters were among the first batch said she was happy to have her daughters back in the country. 

Zalka said, “We thank God they are back with us. I was not eating, I cried almost every day and prayed fervently while they were away. I don’t have anything to say but to thank God.”

She further revealed plans to entol her children in another school in Nigeria.

She said, “I have secured admission for them in the country, so by next month they should be back in school. There are a lot of universities looking for students, particularly those from Ukraine.”

Another mother simply identified as Alimat, who had reunited with her daughter, told the newspaper, “Reuniting with my daughter means a lot to me. With explosions and bombings that we see on a daily basis on the television, I almost thought it wouldn’t be possible for me to see my daughter again. I have nothing to say but thank God and the Nigerian Government for bringing them back.”




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