Three Black women have raised more than $60,000 to help Black students flee Ukraine as Russia continues to attack the European country. Patricia Daley, a 29-year-old barrister in London, and her friend, 40-year-old social worker Tokunbo Koiki, got to know via Twitter the story of a young Black student who was documenting her difficult journey to escape Ukraine.
The young woman, known as Korrine Sky, was studying in the eastern city of Dnipro when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, according to Sky News. Daley and Koiki later contacted 26-year-old Sky, who has since fled to Romania. The three women started a campaign to help other Black students leave Ukraine amid the chaos.
The women told Sky News that they have helped more than 500 Black students to flee Ukraine through “funding transport costs, like arranging taxis and other emergency needs.”
What has been worrying many since last week is the number of African students stranded in Ukraine. Apart from many Africans traveling to Ukraine to work, there are those who go there to study thanks to the European country’s affordable tuition fees and its ties with Africa. Currently, Morocco, Nigeria and Egypt are the African countries with the most students in Ukraine, with Morocco having about 8,000 students and Nigeria with 4,000.
Many have since been concerned about their safety. This week, African students and families trapped in Ukraine said that they were being blocked from boarding trains or crossing borders to neighboring countries. Nigerian students and other Africans in Ukraine spoke on Twitter about their plight while creating group chats on Telegram and Whatsapp where they shared videos that appear to show Africans being blocked from fleeing to safety.
Ukrainian border officials were reportedly helping their fellow citizens cross over to safety first before foreigners. African embassies were also criticized for not doing enough to evacuate their citizens.
So far, Ghana and Nigeria have welcomed home some evacuated students who were studying in Ukraine when Russia invaded.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24 with explosions heard across the country. Despite international condemnation, Russian troops attacked Ukraine on multiple fronts from Belarus, Russia and Crimea in what experts said could be the start of war in Europe over Russia’s demands for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion.
For a long time, there had been tensions between Russia and Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, but the situation started getting worse in early 2021 when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged U.S. President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO. Russia didn’t like this, and started sending troops near its Ukraine border for “training exercises” in spring last year and later increased it.