David, Mechanical Engineering Student from Nigeria
Image courtesy of David

David, Mechanical Engineering Student from Nigeria

"Some of my friends went back to Nigeria. But, I can’t go back. I suffered traveling here in the first place."

On February 26th, we released a story detailing the experiences of four African students as they attempted to flee Ukraine as Russia invaded their territory. The piece, What Africans Students Are Experiencing, recounted the strenuous journeys that the students endured fleeing the Eastern European nation.

David is a Nigerian citizen who was pursuing a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering when the Russian attack took place. However, Ukraine requires students from certain countries to take a one-year English language course, therefore he did not get the chance to begin his degree.

We caught up with David a couple of montha after the initial strike to gain a fuller picture of his trek out of war-torn Ukraine and hear about how he settled in the aftermath. Click here to read other stories in this series.

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Responses edited for length and clarity.

"I successfully left Ukraine. Then, from Romania, I entered Germany, and then from Germany to Italy. I'm in Italy now. Right now, I have gone to immigration and applied for a petition to extend my stay – they are yet to give it to me.

The city I was in, Rivne, was hit by missiles. The day [the war began] they threw missiles and everybody was so scared. Rivne was hit really badly. Getting out of Ukraine was so hectic because of the Ukrainian army. They are so racist, and it made the process so much more difficult. I sat at the border for almost two days before I was allowed to pass.

I fell sick when I finally got to Romania, and a woman helped me by buying me medication so that I could be strong enough to continue on. The journey was not easy. It is the middle of winter, so it’s freezing cold in Ukraine. I had to leave everything behind in case I had to run. All I traveled with was a school bag that I filled with some clothing. It was then impossible to find transportation because the banks stopped working and wouldn’t accept foreign bank cards. All of my money, sitting in my bank account, but I wasn’t able to withdraw it. So, my friends with money on hand were able to carry me along, thankfully.

Traveling from Lviv to the Romanian border took us 10 to 12 hours, I think. But, we stayed at the border for two days, I believe, due to racism. They allowed Ukrainians to move first, while we Blacks stood waiting, shouting. I think our shouting and making a noise got them to let us through.

I traveled with other Nigerians, and one of my close friends is here in Italy, too. He has an uncle here in Italy, but I don't have anybody here. I met a man at a park near the train station [in Italy] and he offered to accommodate me.

Some of my friends went back to Nigeria. But, I can’t go back. I suffered traveling here in the first place. My father died when I was young, so I'm the breadwinner in my family. When I was studying in Ukraine, I worked part-time so that I could feed my family [back in Nigeria]. Things are not easy for my family, I am their only hope. If I go back, how can we live? How can we feed ourselves? It's so bad in my family, that's why I can't go back to Nigeria. I'm trying to find a way to stay, find work or try and sort out my life here. So, I'm waiting for a work visa.

I don’t see myself going back to Ukraine – I had already planned on leaving. My aim for traveling abroad was to find work, but there isn’t any in Ukraine. I worked as a carpenter there and it did not pay well. I earned $250 a month. I sent $100 to my family in Nigeria, used some to buy myself food and stuff, and then I save $50. That’s it. There is no work in Ukraine, and it’s a very hard country to live in. I was trying to find a connection or something in order to travel West and find a better job."

To read other stories in this series, click here.