We are just trying to survive – Kenyan student stuck in Ukraine says

Kharkiv National University telecommunications student Stephanie Iman. [Courtesy]

Five Kenyan students are among tens of thousands of Ukrainians who are headed west into Poland in the wake of the Russian invasion.

Speaking to The Standard about the arduous journey out of Ukraine, Kenyan national and Kharkiv National University telecommunications student Stephanie Iman expressed hope that she will make it to the border before Russian troops close in on the capital Kyiv.

Strained by uncertainty and fear for her child with whom she is travelling with from Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine, Iman said a 10-kilometre walk awaits her at the nearest border town where thousands of refugees displaced by the conflict are awaiting processing to cross into Poland. 

Ukrainian servicemen walk by a damaged vehicle, at the site of fighting with Russian troops. [Reuters]

Iman narrated that a truck, reportedly picking up and transporting mothers and children from the long queues, could be a heaven-sent chariot to the border crossing where at least 100,000 people have entered since the start of the invasion. Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 60 have been banned from leaving the country and urged to take up arms against Russia.

“We are headed to Poland, which is approximately one hour by car. Due to long queues, we have to walk between 5 to 10Km. But, considering I have a child, I have an advantage because there is a truck that picks up mothers and children. It ferries them directly to the border. Processing is also quicker. I hope that will happen,” said Iman.

The trek to the border is half the journey. When across to the safety of Poland, she has to contact officials assigned by the Kenyan consulate in Ukraine to facilitate her travel back home.

“When we get to Poland, the Kenyan consulate in Ukraine has organized contacts for us. We are supposed to reach out to those people and have the consulate know that we have arrived safely… Everything has stopped due to the war. We do not have a clear projection of when we may return. We are just trying to survive,” she added.

In Kenya, a mother, Halima Hassan, whose daughter Hadija Mohamed Hamo is studying medicine at Bogomolets University in Kyiv could not hide her deep anxiety over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Halima Hassan. [Courtesy]

Halima has not heard from her daughter Hamo and the medical student’s four other colleagues ever since they crossed into Poland.

According to Halima, phone calls to the five, who include a Tanzanian national, have not gone through. The last time they spoke, the students expressed exhaustion having made the gruelling trek to the crossing.

“One of them is a month old in Ukraine. As a parent, we were extremely worried [after Russia invaded Ukraine]. Thanks to God, they crossed the border safely, but our calls aren’t going through,” she said.

Adding: “We are just waiting for them to call us back. [When we spoke] they told has they are tired having walked 10km on foot from the nearest town to the border. They were to rest in Poland then book a flight to fly over from Warsaw.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, 2022.

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