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We are barely surviving, says Kenyan stranded in Ukraine

Kharkiv National University telecommunications student Stephanie Iman. [Courtesy]

Five Kenyan students are among tens of thousands of Ukrainians who are headed west into Poland in the wake of the Russian invasion.

Speaking to The Standard about the arduous journey out of Ukraine, Kenyan national and Kharkiv National University telecommunications student Stephanie Iman expressed hope that she will make it to the border before Russian troops close in on the capital Kyiv.

Ms Iman, who is travelling with her child, said a 10-kilometre walk awaits her at the nearest border town where thousands of refugees displaced by the conflict are awaiting processing to cross into Poland.

Iman said a truck, reportedly picking up and transporting mothers and children from the long queues, could be a heaven-sent chariot to the crossing where at least 100,000 people have entered since the start of the invasion.

Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 60 have been banned from leaving the country and urged to take up arms against Russia.

Ukrainian servicemen walk by a damaged vehicle, at the site of fighting with Russian troops. [Reuters]

“We are headed to Poland, which is approximately one hour by car. Due to long queues, we have to walk between 5 to 10Km. But, considering I have a child, I have an advantage because there is a truck that picks up mothers and children. It ferries them directly to the border. Processing is also quicker. I hope that will happen,” said Iman.

The trek to the border is half the journey. When across to the safety of Poland, she has to contact representatives tasked by the Kenyan consulate in Ukraine to facilitate the travel of Kenyan nationals back home.

“When we get to Poland, the Kenyan consulate in Ukraine has organised contacts for us. We are supposed to reach out to those people and have the consulate know that we have arrived safely. Everything has stopped due to the war. We are just trying to survive,” she added.

In Kenya, a mother, Halima Hassan, whose daughter Hadija Mohamed Hamo is studying medicine at Bogomolets University in Kyiv, cannot hide her deep anxiety over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

 Hadija Mohamed Hamo is studying medicine at Bogomolets University in Kyiv. [Courtesy]

Halima has not heard from her daughter Hamo and her four other colleagues ever since they crossed over to Poland.

According to Halima, phone calls to the five, who include a Tanzanian national, have not gone through. The last time they spoke, the students expressed optimism about travelling to Kenya but said they needed rest having made the gruelling trek to the border.

“One of them is a month old in Ukraine. We were extremely worried but thanks to God, they crossed the border safely, but our calls to them have not been going through,” she said.

 “We are just waiting for them to call us back. The last time we spoke, they said they were tired, having walked 10km to the border. They were to rest in Poland then book a flight to fly over from Warsaw.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, 2022.