29-year-old Londonite Patricia Daley and her friend, 40-year-old Tokunbo Koiki, came across a tweet of a young Black student who was documenting her difficult journey to escape Ukraine. The young woman, who was later identified as 26-year-old, Korrine Sky, was studying in the eastern city of Dnipro when the chaos erupted.
Now, she has safely fled to Romania, but Sky’s journey was no easy feat. Prior videos posted to her Twitter account show locals circling the young student’s car, attempting to stop her and other people of color from passing the border. Another clip captured long lines as thousands of refugees and locals waited eagerly to cross over to the neighboring country.
Daley and Koiki reached out to Sky forming an unexpected alliance. The three women coordinated a campaign to help other Black students impacted by the crisis after a series of videos showed Ukrainian authorities preventing students of color from safely crossing the border.
The changemakers told Sky News that they have now helped “more than 500 Black students” to successfully flee Ukraine by “funding transport costs, like arranging taxis and other emergency needs.”
Koiki, who is a social worker, recalled the harrowing messages she received from Black students in the country–all who said they were absolutely “terrified” by the mistreatment.
“People said they were pushed, sent back, and physically assaulted on both sides of the border in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland,” she said.
Daley echoed similar complaints that she had received from scared students, many of whom claimed they were taunted with racism as they tried to escape to safety. Some even recounted seeing segregated lines for Ukrainians and non-white people.
“I do think they have been treated differently at borders because of their skin,” Daley added. “Racism is now happening even in situations where there is war.”
Morocco, Nigeria, and Egypt make up the massive student body in Ukraine, with nearly 16,000 African people studying in the country, the publication noted.
More heartbreaking stories continue to surface this week, including one from Clement Akenboro, an economics student from Nigeria, who told NPR he was thrown off a train headed to Poland from Lviv by security guards.
“They drug all the Black guys from the train,” he said, noting how the experience made him break down in tears.
This week, the U.N.’s high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, issued a statement about the ongoing mistreatment.
“There should be absolutely no discrimination between Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, Europeans and non-Europeans. Everybody is fleeing from the same risks,” Grandi told reporters, adding that the racist incidents “weren’t a product of state policies,” according to NBC News.