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Ukraine: Eight Nigerian Students Flee Sumy, Dodge Russian Soldiers, Tanks


Some of the Nigerian students trapped in hostel 3 of Sumy State University (SumDU) following fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Sumy are finding ways to flee.

Those who can afford it, are spending up to $1800 per head for difficult-to-get taxi rides out of the city.

Eight of them braved the bombing and escaped westwards on Sunday.

 Sumy, in eastern Ukraine, is approximately 48km from the Russian border – an area surrounded by conflict.

There were about 368 Nigerian students still trapped in Sumy as of Saturday night facing food and water shortages.

Some of the students told The Nation that following the Ukrainian and Russians failure to agree on a safe corridor for civilians to leave the city, students were making private arrangements and it was now every man for himself.

One of the eight, Emmanuella Oiza, told The Nation that they were lucky to get a bus to the train station in Myrhorod, a city in the Poltava Oblast (province) of central Ukraine.

Oiza, a 17-year-old first-year medical student, said what should have been a two-hour ride from Sumy to Myrhorod took seven hours.

She explained that they dodged Russian soldiers and the quick reflexes of their driver saved them from possibly being blown to bits when their bus came face to face with Russian battle tanks.

Oiza said: “We started the journey (from Sumy) by 7:30am and got to the Myrhorod train station by 2:30pm. We had to hide a couple of times because we saw Russian troops on the road.

“The second time we had to hide was scarier because the tank was facing us directly and our driver had to be quick to catch the break and take us out of there.

“We stopped in front of a family house and they had dogs so the dogs kept barking at the car because we were outside their house.

“The owners of the house came outside and asked what happened and why we were there. We explained our situation to them and they said we should come into their house and take some coffee, tea and food.

“After an hour or so, the road was safe again but we still followed a rural route out of Sumy till we reached Myhorrod.

“So our journey of normally two hours at most was seven hours long. We encountered seven checkpoints, at two of which they asked for our Posvidka (temporary residence).

“We stayed at the train station in Myhorrod overnight because no trains were going at that time. By 9 or 10am this morning (Monday) we finally got a train but the journey will be long because it is going to Kharkiv, Poltava, Myhorrod, Kyiv then Lviv.

“As of now we’re not moving because there have been threats of airstrike. So, we’re just in the train waiting for it to be safe to move.”

She said eight of them paid 32,000 Ukrainian hryvnias (Uah) (N443,602.91) or four thousand Uah (N55,000) per head for the trip from Sumy to Myhorrod train station.

“It was lucky for us, actually. Some people are paying $1800 per head. We then used a cab to Poltava to get a train.”
Oiza’s mum, Mrs Rashida said parents had to arrange private means of transportation for their kids.

“The government planned to evacuate them today but failed again,” she said.

A Computer Science Masters student, Ojo Olajide, who is still trapped in hostel 3, corroborated Oiza.

Olajide said: “Students are finding their way out already. I don’t know the exact number. Private plans coupled with risk. But a lot of students are still in Sumy hopeless.”

The Federal Government had evacuated 1076 Nigerians from Ukraine as of Sunday night.

Director of consular and legal services, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Akinremi Bolaji, said last Friday that the government was aware of the plight of Nigerians in Sumy.

“We also still have 350 in Sumy College which has been cut off… as soon as we are through with the safe corridor, we will go for those ones,” Bolaji said.

But Olajide explained that the planned evacuation of Nigerians in Sumy yesterday morning was shelved because security and other logistics were yet to be perfected.



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