Over £24,000 raised for African and Caribbean students in Ukraine after claims of racism at border3 min read
Words by Digital Journalist Barnaby Papadopulos
Students are struggling to get out of Ukraine, as a war in the country reaches its fourth day.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen missiles and bombs hit cities across the country, and the beginnings of an exodus as hundreds and thousands of Ukrainians leave for other countries.
But several videos shared to social media appear to show incidents at Ukraine’s borders where students from Africa and the Caribbean are blocked from leaving the country for safe territory.
One Nigerian Twitter user said her and other students from the west African country were stopped by Polish border guards when attempting to flee.
In her video, viewed over a million times, a crowd can be seen pleading with guards, who are standing with levelled weapons.
Some, raising both hands to show they are not carrying weapons, shout: “We are students! We are not armed!”
Now, two women from the UK, working with another on the ground in Ukraine, have raised over £20,000 to support African and Caribbean students who are stranded in the country.
Speaking to ITV News, one of the organisers, Tokunbo Koiki, said she was driven to start raising money and awareness after seeing videos of the situation on social media.
“People are scared,” she said. “People are really, really terrified. Especially for the people in the major cities who are currently under attack.
Since the fundraiser on PayPal was launched less than two days ago, around £24,000 has been raised to help students with transport and accommodation costs.
Tokunbo, and fellow organiser Patricia Daley, say they have already sent around £3,000 to those in need – but the demand is growing.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” said Patricia. “At any given moment situations can change.”
The support being offered is not just financial. The organisers of the fundraiser have been in close contact with students, mapping routes out of the country, and facilitating communication between different groups of students.
“We’ve had students who simply couldn’t afford a bus, we’ve been able to send them funds and they’ve been able to split the cost to make it easier, and really create a sense of community.”
Citing footage shot at the border and their own interactions with fleeing African and Caribbean students, both Tokunbo and Patricia said they strongly believed racism is at play on the Ukrainian – Polish border.
“There’s a segregation that’s happening at the borders,” said Tonkunbo.
“White Ukrainians have been allowed in with open arms, and blankets.”
“This is the anti-blackness that is global. So even within a war, even within being under siege, we still have racism.”
Patricia points out that a number of people from Poland have been in touch to offer transport and accommodation.
But, she says, “even in a time of war, that two opposing sides can come together and the common ground that they find is racism. “
“That was a very overwhelming conclusion to come to for me.”
“We really have to, as a world, change how we look at humanity. Our humanity should not be transactional.”
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