Live Updates: Russia invades Ukraine
As the war in Ukraine rages on, two Nigerian students who have since returned home after fleeing Russia’s invasion of the country have described their traumatic escape.
Adetomiwa Adeniyi, 24, and Amamchim Steve-Ajufo, 17, were both studying medicine in Ukraine before Russian troops invaded. The Nigerian government has evacuated its citizens fleeing war in Ukraine, and more than 1,500 of them have been flown home, authorities said.
Adeniyi and Steve-Ajufo were among the Nigerian students recently evacuated by the government.
The couple crossed into neighboring Romania via the Ukrainian border. The experience, they said, was harrowing and unfamiliar.
“There were three lines: one apparently for Ukrainians, one for Indians and one for Africans. I wondered why it was like that since we were all trying to get out,” Adeniyi told CNN’s Zain Asher.
“If you were Ukrainian… or white, it was almost as if you had a fast track to the gate (of the border with Romania). I lost hope of being able to cross,” he added.
Several people CNN has spoken to in recent days — mostly African and Indian students studying in Ukraine — have complained about the difficulty of crossing the Ukrainian border into neighboring countries.
Others said they had suffered racist treatment by Ukrainian security forces and border officials who allegedly prioritized Ukrainian refugees and “showed prejudice against foreign students”.
Steve-Ajufo said she was ordered back into the queue for Africans by Ukrainian border officials when she was seen standing among Ukrainians.
“I accidentally went to the Ukrainian line and I was immediately told to come back to my side. I cried a lot. The border officials kept shouting ‘come back, come back!’. I was so tired and I was cold, and I didn’t understand what was going on. I wanted to give up several times but I kept reminding myself of my mother,” the 17-year-old medical student said.
Adeniyi and Steve-Ajufo eventually made it through the Romanian capital of Bucharest, where they were flown back to Nigeria on a chartered flight provided by the Nigerian government.
The young Nigerian students, however, told CNN that Ukraine had become their homeland and they were devastated to leave the Eastern European country now besieged by Russian forces.
“This is (Ukraine) my home. I spent almost six years there,” Adeniyi told CNN.
According to Steve-Ajufo, his home (the Ukraine) was “taken away”.
“It breaks my heart,” she said. “Every time I think about it or see news that another place (in Ukraine) has been bombed or someone else has died, I get angry that my house has been taken away from me. I am traumatized,” she told CNN.
Ukraine is home to many foreign students who choose to study there because it is more affordable than other Western countries. The country also has a solid reputation for medical courses.
About 4,000 Nigerian students are studying in Ukraine, most of them studying medicine, according to the office of the Nigerian president.
Watch more of their story here.