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Discrimination and outright racist claims against Ukrainian officials have caused many Black people still in Ukraine to restrategize their exodus from the war-torn country. African citizens, in particular students, have reported incidents of racial discrimination and abuse at the Ukrainian border with Poland.
These reports have included beatings, being denied entry to trains, or simply being left stranded in border towns as White Ukrainian refugees escape and leave them behind.
Discrimination for being Black in Ukraine
According to NBC News, Tolulope Osho, 31, reached the Polish border the day after Russia invaded Ukraine. Osho, who’s from Nigeria, returned to Ternopil, in western Ukraine, where he’s remained in a safe zone for the past week.
He’s helped shelter people in underground bunkers, driven them to borders, and provided money through a fundraiser. In total, he said he and a friend have assisted some 200 people. Osho has relied heavily on Instagram, where people across the country have reached out to ask for money and transportation.
Organizations like the Lviv Center for Urban History, Fight for Right, BOCTOK-SOS and the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights are providing food, a ride to shelter for those fleeing the conflict, and anything in between.
Along with Osho, a trio of women, Korrine Sky, Tokunbo Koiki, and Patricia Daley formed Black Women for Black Lives to provide nearby Africans and Caribbeans with information on the safest routes through areas where they might face discrimination while trying to escape.
Another group of Black women started the Black in Ukraine group chat on Telegram, a messaging app, which has facilitated communication for more than 4,500 Black people in the country and coordinated with one another for the bare necessities of safety and transportation.
“We created a document (that) the students were able to refer to, to find where the borders were, which borders were safe,” and at which borders Black people had experienced racism, Daley said. “It became a guide that included a list of accommodations, a list of drivers, contacts for when students were crossing over. ”
Whether wading through water in the Underground Railroad or navigating America using the Green Book, historically Black people have had to be highly perceptive, fast-on-our-feet, succinct communicators, and expertly agile as a means of survival.
It’s a lesson passed down from generation to generation just like the popular African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to far, go together.”