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Nigerian Students Discuss their Escape from Ukraine and the Racism they Faced

Nigerian Students Discuss their Escape from Ukraine and the Racism they Faced

Two Nigerian students spoke about their experience of fleeing Ukraine, and the racism they faced at the country’s border, in an interview with CNN’s Zain Asher.

Adetomiwa Adeniyi, Amamchim Steve-Ajufo CNN’s Zain Asher

24-year-old Adetomiwa Adeniyi and 17-year-old Amamchim Steve-Ajufo were both studying medicine in Ukraine when Russia’s invasion began. Their lives in danger, they travelled to the Ukrainian-Romanian border.

Adeniyi described what they saw at the border, “Initially there were several lines, I think the best way to say it, three lines in which there was one seemingly for the Ukrainians, one for the Indians, and then the Africans were also set aside. I wondered why it should be like that while trying to get out.”

He added, “If you were white, it’s almost as though you’re going fast-track to the front of the gates.”

Steve-Ajufo spoke about how harrowing the journey had been, “I cried when I was in front and the border officials kept screaming, go back, go back. I was just so tired, and I was exhausted, and I cried. I cried a whole lot because I was cold and I did not understand what was going on. I wanted to give up several times, but I kept reminding myself of my mom.”

Transcript –

AMAMCHIM STEVE-AJUFO: My feet were hurting. I could barely walk, but I kept pushing every second.

Amamchim Steve-Ajufo

Amamchim Steve-Ajufo

ADETOMIWA ADENIYI: Like, I just lost like hope there. I’m not, I’m not going to be able to cross this.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Born in Nigeria 24-year-old Adetomiwa Adeniyi and 17-year-old Amamchim Steve-Ajufo were both studying medicine in Ukraine when Russia’s invasion began. Their lives in danger, each fled to the Siret crossing on the Ukrainian-Romanian border. They say what they experienced there was both unfamiliar and traumatic.

ADENIYI: Initially there were several lines, I think the best way to say it, three lines in which there was one seemingly for the Ukrainians, one for the Indians, and then the Africans were also set aside. I wondered why it should be like that while trying to get out.

STEVE-AJUFO: I accidentally, actually was an accident on my part, went to the Ukrainian side. Instantly they told me to go to my side.

ASHER: Do you think that there was a level of bias, or a level of discrimination based on skin colour as to who was being treated better at the border? Who was being, you know, getting preferential treatment in terms of admittance?

ADENIYI: if you were Ukrainian for instance or maybe another nationality, but you were white, it’s almost as though you’re going fast-track to the front of the gates.

Adetomiwa Adeniyi

Adetomiwa Adeniyi

ASHER: Growing up in Nigeria, growing up in an all black country, having never experienced any racism ever before. Did you understand what was happening and why you were being set aside?

STEVE-AJUFO: I cried twice. I cried when I was in front and the um border officials kept screaming, go back, go back. I was just so tired, and I was exhausted, and I cried, I cried a whole lot because I was cold and I did not understand what was going on. I wanted to give up several times, but I kept reminding myself of my mom.

ASHER: Eventually Adetomiwa and Amamchim managed to pass into neighbouring Romania. Once they arrived in the capital Bucharest, they flew back to Nigeria, a place that hadn’t been their home for some time.

Has it fully sunk in that you may not, at least anytime soon, get to go back to Ukraine?

STEVE-AJUFO: I refuse to believe it. It breaks my heart every time I think about it. Every time I see news that somewhere else has been bombed or someone else has died, I’m angry that my home was snatched from me. That’s one. And second, I’ve been traumatised.

ADENIYI: It’s my home, I would say. Um almost spent six years there. We don’t know, we don’t know what’s next.

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