With monumental destructions and casualties recorded on both sides in the ongoing Russia/Ukraine missiles war, Nabil Altine Kajiji, a 200-level Computer Studies undergraduate under the scholarship or Sokoto State Government, in this interview with ADENIYI OLUGBEMI, narrated his harrowing journey back home. He also dropped the cheering news that even in the middle of the war, students still receive lectures online, on their smartphones or computer. Read Excerpts

Q. A brief introduction of yourself?

A. My name is Nabil Altine Kajiji. I am a year two Computer Studies undergraduate student at the National Technical University, Dnipro, in Ukraine, on the scholarship of Sokoto state government.

Q. Do you have an idea of estimated population of Nigerian students in Ukraine?

A. There are more than five thousand estimated Nigerian studying different courses in various universities in Ukraine. Majority of Nigerian students meet at different fora social media platforms at City/State levels to interact.
Personally, I do not have much contact with fellow Nigerian students in Ukraine because only two of us from Sokoto state are studying at the National Technical University in Dnipro.

The expected affinity and interaction with fellow Nigerian students in Ukraine was also restricted because, when I arrived Ukraine in year 2020 for studies, that was when Coronavirus was ravaging the world and, this denied the entire world much physical contact. At that period, there was much restriction and our classes was mostly online.

Q. Prior to the time Russia first missile landed in Ukraine, was there any premonition or likelihood of a full blown war?

A. The outbreak of the attack on Ukraine was rather shocking because many global leaders were trying to mediate and ensure that what started as a diplomatic disagreement do not rupture the global peace. I would rather say, most people in Ukraine, were caught napping because there was no inkling or premonition that Russia will deploy weapons of war on Ukraine.

Q. The news back home before the arrival of the first set of Nigerians from Ukraine was that, there was delay in the evacuation of Nigerians by the Federal Government. Is this true or, the evacuation was timely?

A. Truly, Federal Government reaction in living up to her responsibility of evacuating Nigerians caught up in the Russia/Ukraine war, was not prompt as expected, compared to the quick responses of other governments to their nationals, who were evacuated, some four days, before the first launch of missiles into Ukraine by Russia.

The Nigerian Embassy in Ukraine was not proactive enough as we waited anxiously for information on what next to do, unfortunately, there was no clear cut information from the embassy, not until days after other nationals were being evacuated before the war broke out that, Nigerians should go to a website and, filled their data online. The only information on the website was that, we should avoid travelling but, remain wherever we are.

Evacuation of Nigerians did not start until days into the war, after many Nigerians caught up in the war struggled to find their ways to Ukraine borders with neighbouring countries.

Q. Kindly share with us, how you were able to flee from the onslaught on Ukraine and your journey back home?

A. The news of the first attack which threw everyone off balance, was broken by the President of Ukraine, on his verified page. There was fear and apprehension everywhere, we students, were left with no option than to call home and relay the devastating message to our parents.

From my university city, Dnipro, I headed towards Zaporizhzhia, where there are significant number of fellow students from Sokoto state, for us to be together. The next day, under heavy bombardment, we find our way to the train station, to enable us relocate from Eastern Ukraine to the West. Our attempt to board another train from Western Ukraine to Poland was unsuccessful as we gathered that, there was huge human traffic from Ukraine into Poland, making it difficult for foreigners to enter Poland.

We were left with no option than to change our escape route to Hungary, which was initially unsuccessful, with another huge escapees heading to Hungary by train. The only alternative to get to the Ukraine/Hungary border was by taxi, at the equivalent of two hundred thousand naira, for a journey of about four hours. At a point, even, with the exhorbitant fare while on the road to the Ukraine/Hungary border, we have to come down from the taxi and completed the journey by trekking, for more than an hour to the border post because the vehicular and human traffic were so heavy, resulting into a stalemate.

Temporary relief came our way after completing necessary paperwork that permit us entry into Hungary, where we were subjected to another eighteen hours wait, for Covid-19 tests and sundry immigration paperwork, for a three months visa to stay in Hungary. It was after our four-day stopover in Hungary that, Nigerian officials told us that, the initial aeroplane sent for our evacuation back home was not granted permission to land in Hungary.

The whole experience was traumatic. I could only returned to Nigeria with two pairs of clothes in my backpack. Throughout our journey from Dnipro to Zaporizhzhia, till we get to the Ukraine/Hungary border, we only survived on snacks and bottle water in our train, taxi and trekking voyage. We could only take a bite of the snack and drink little water because, the snack and water must not get finished and as well, save ourselves the trouble of disrupting our journey by wanting to empty our bowels or bladder in such dicey journey. Some have to discard their luggages as, it became extra burden in the course of the journey.

Kudos however, goes to Nigeria Ambassador to Hungary, Her Excellency (Dr) Eniola Olaitan Ajayi, she’s really a mother who feel our pains and trauma. Her words of comfort, encouragement and reception was really a soothing balm to us. Happily, the first batch of Nigerians, which I was fortunate to be among, left Hungary after our five days stopover, landed in Abuja, after eight hours flight.

Q. Was there any record of casualty(ies) among Nigerian students?

A. To the best of my knowledge, no Nigerian student died in the Russia/Ukraine war, except the death of a fellow Sokoto state government sponsored students, Huzaifa Habibu Modachi, a year three medical student at Zaporizhzhia State Medical University, who died in Sokoto on Friday, March 18th, 2022,

Q. The raging war have disrupted your studies, what is your next line of action?

A. Interestingly, though Ukraine is under heavy bombardment from Russia but, I can gladly tells you that, the war has no significant disruptions on our studies, in that, we still have our classes online via smartphones or computer. We however, look forward to a meeting with our state Governor, Rt. Honourable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, where he would unfold the state government next line of action for us. I think the best alternative is for the state government to work out relocating us to another country so that, we would not missed class work.

Q. Will you be willing to return to Ukraine and continue your studies in the event of a ceasefire?

A. Much as I enjoyed my two years stay, schooling in Ukraine, I don’t think going back there will be possible, at least, not in the nearest future. This is because, with the devastating attacks from Russian missiles, the losses in terms of human and infrastructural destructions Ukraine has suffered, it will hardly recovered to where it was before, the first Russian missile landed on it soil.

Q. What is/are the lesson(s) learnt in this whole saga?

A. I have learnt that peaceful coexistence cannot be quantified or compared to anything because, I am yet to fully recover from the trauma as, a homeless person right from Dnipro to Zaporizhzhia and Lviv to the Ukraine/Hungary border, till I landed in Abuja. To our government at all levels, they should look into making our systems, in all ramifications work because, if our educational system could almost be at par with what are obtainable overseas, definitely, the desire for education in foreign lands, will be reduced.

To fellow Nigerians, whose sing-song is drumbeat of disintegration and war, I wish they do not experience a fraction of my escapades as a survivor from, a full-blown war front, to realise that the world need peace.