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Foreign students in Ukraine try to flee from gunfire

On the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many foreigners living in Ukraine contacted InfoMigrants. Like the Ukrainian population, they now fear for their lives. One of them is Zhiar, a medical student from Iraqi Kurdistan, who was injured in a bombardment in Kharkiv and is now trying to flee westward.

Russia launched an armed attack on Ukraine at dawn on Thursday, February 24, targeting the major cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol, Odessa and Kyiv. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians began to flee the same, morninging to move to the western parts of Ukraine and to cross into western countries. InfoMigrants was contacted by foreigners living in Ukraine who also are seeking to leave the country.

Zhiar, a 17-year-old medical student from Iraqi Kurdistan in Kharkiv, was injured on Thursday morning during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Panicked and scared, he told InfoMigrants what exactly happened.

“I was injured early this morning. I was in my apartment in Kharkiv [in eastern Ukraine, editor’s note] where I live with my sister and my cousin. I heard a noise outside so I went out on the balcony to see what was going on, and was wounded in the leg by a shelling.

“My leg is injured quite badly. It is very painful, but I could not be treated at the hospital because it was already crowded. I can’t really walk so my sister and my cousin have to help me. We took a taxi to Kyiv. We want to go to Lviv [in western Ukraine, ed. note] but there are no more trains. We were told that the next one would leave in three or four days. When we left our apartment, we only took a few clothes, nothing else. I never imagined there would be a war here.”

No train to leave from Kyiv

On Thursday, InfoMigrants also spoke to Izi, a Congolese student who has been living in Ukraine for four years. Izi lives in Zhytomyr, about 140 kilometers from Kyiv, but he was in the capital on Thursday morning during the first bombings. He also says he wants to move west and leave the country if possible.

“I heard the shelling in the distance. Afterwards, everyone, foreigners and Ukrainians alike, came out of their homes with suitcases. The situation is still turbulent.

“I’m going to pick up things at home in Zhytomyr. I’m going to take a small bag with clothes, my diploma, my laptop. Then I’m going to leave for Lviv with some people I met today: Cameroonians, Congolese, Malians, Nigerians … We all met at the Kyiv train station.But at the end, there was no train and so I returned to Zhytomyr by taxi.

‘No one is safe here’

“We decided to meet in Zhytomyr and cross the border with Poland. No one is safe here. We are going to leave at 7am by car. We’re going to go to Poland and see how far we can go in Western Europe.”

“I have lived in Ukraine for four years. I had to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because I was threatened by the former president. I wanted to come and study here because I wanted to come to Europe. But Ukraine was cheaper [than western Europe, ed. note].

“I never imagined there would be a war here. It’s stressful to be away from family, away from everything in this situation.”

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