“Ukraine is our home too”

Photo: Mayleen Rivero

Juan and praise from Nigeria. They lived for years in Kharkiv, the city in northeastern Ukraine that was hard hit by the attacks. However, the tracks of the two crossed only here in Hamburg. Your new temporary home in Bahrenfeld.

The smell of food hit me when Juan opened the front door with a big smile. He wears a colorful Hawaiian shirt with a comic print, cargo pants, and sneakers. The apartment makes a modern and bright impression. Laughter and music could be heard coming from the kitchen down the hall. A slim, petite person in jogging pants, a light blue hoodie and a black hat hovers over to Afrobeats headphones that blast from the tiny speakers. The praise directly shows that dancing is his passion. With the other three roommates – also Nigerians – he prepares dinner.

Juan opens the door to the next room. The room was empty except for a few chairs, a row of tables, and a floor lamp. Juan is sitting. He wants to share his story. After him came the turn of praise.

Ukraine: a popular destination for international students

Before the outbreak of the war, Ukraine was an attractive destination for international students. Ukrainian universities were seen as a stepping stone to the European labor market: studies could be completed in English, tuition fees and the cost of living were relatively cheap.

Juan Hoff’s parentsTen to better prospects for their son in Europe. Money was scarce at home. “They sent me to Ukraine with the little money my parents had,” says the 24-year-old. At the age of 16, immediately after completing school, he went to Kharkiv to begin his driving studies.

The prospect of a successful future also motivated Price’s mother to send her son to Ukraine. Al Hamad left Nigeria in 2017 and has since studied medicine in Kharkiv. In addition to his studies, he taught African dances at a dance school. Last year, the 22-year-old passed his first state exam, and he should have passed the final exam in two years. He wanted to stay in Ukraine for a long time. His asylum application has been recognized – he should have received his permanent residence permit in April. But unfortunately I got a wrench in the worksdisappointment written on the face of praise.

FINK.HAMBURG compiled reports and photos of those affected in the series “Ukraine in Hamburg”. At school and in ballet, on the road with an influential refugee and tennis pro from Kyiv – FINK. Hamburg presents different challenges and perspectives regarding the war.

The decision to flee

At four in the morning on February 24, Al-Hamad lay awake in his room in Kharkiv. A friend and his sister visited him and stayed with him. The nurse broke into his room crying. Praise, we must go, they will kill us!I cried in panic.

Even if the politicsThe situation has worsened over the past few weeks, and praise is upbeat and hopeful that things will not come to that. “I never wanted to leave Ukraine,” he says. That morning he realized he had no other choice.

Juan was in his apartment when the first bombs fell on Kharkiv. I didn’t want to admit it, I didn’t want to go. But I was so scared. I ran and didn’t know where to go, he says with his eyes closed, as if to put himself back in position. He was staying with seven other people in a friend’s basement. The others didn’t want to leave either. That’s why I was with them, because they have the same mentality: Whatever happens, we stay in Ukraine, our home. His attitude had changed when he saw the destroyed facade a few days later.

The Nigerian government has sent a total of five evacuation planes to bring Nigerians back home. But returning to Nigeria was not an option for Juan or Price. They really wanted to stay in Europe.

Praise rose immediately With two friends on the way to Kharkiv railway station. In a hurry and panic he hardly took anything with him, even leaving his passport at home. We had to wait five hours in the rain at the train station for the bombs to be heard. Then a train finally came. Everyone tried to get in. The train was crowded. Hamd remembers, shaking his head violently to swing his positions. At 9 pm, they finally managed to get on the train to Lviv.

Juan, who was at the train station two days later, pulls his smartphone from the pocket of his beige pants. He played a video he recorded on the site. On the small scratched screen: a restless crowd in front of a crowded train. There is pushing, crying, screaming. The panic and fear of people can be clearly felt despite the small picture.

I lost my money, my college degrees, my passport and my Ukrainian residence permit in the midst of the chaos. Pants, an inhaler, a pair of shoes and jeans – that’s all Joanne’s bag had when he boarded the train to Lviv on February 26.

With the aim of going to Hungary, he moved from Lviv to the border town of Uzhgorod. There he should have been allowed into the country due to his missing papers, after a long pleading he was then allowed to pass.

Praise, on the other hand, vohR with his friends by taxi towards Poland. But they did not turn away – they got stuck in traffic and decided to walk. “We spent 13 hours walking to the border in the cold.” After a while, his friend’s sister was so exhausted that she couldn’t walk any further. The two returned to Lviv – Al-Hamd continued to escape alone.

At five in the morning he finally reached the Ukrainian border. Ukrainian women and children were given priority and allowed to cross the border first, while the waiting list for foreigners is getting longer and longer. After a long wait, Praise walked another hour to the Polish border.

Experience racism while fleeing

Meanwhile, Juan visited the Nigerian Embassy in Budapest to apply for a new passport. When that was over four weeks later, he drove to Hamburg, where his friends are already staying.

that his darkness hOr it had an effect on his escape experience, Juan doesn’t believe. Not having a passport would have made it difficult for him to escape. However, he says, white Ukrainians have been favored over Africans with passports at the border. But he will understand: “It is they who do not have another home. On the other hand, we can return to our country at any time.

Praise takes a similar view, but has racist experiences: It is a war in your country. I understand that priority is given to locals. However, everyone must be treated fairly.

He and other blacks were treated poorly, especially on the Polish border. Praise was to spend three days outside in the cold. While standing in line, he had an asthma attack. I asked for help from the warden. But instead of helping me, he acted like he didn’t understand me. He pushed me to the floor and told me to go back to class. Some of the security guards were carrying batonsWe are targeting blacks. “Only black people treated her like that,” Al-Hamd says, staring into space. “I just wanted to get away from this place.”

No papers, many problems

Arriving at passport control, Praise was taken to another office due to his missing documents. There he would have waited another two days – he did not know why and why. The site administrators could not or did not want to provide any information. I slept on the floor in the office with other people. Bread was given to us to eat twice a day. On the third of March came the turn of praise. A cell phone photo of his passport that was with him was printed, then he was allowed to go.

The next day he moved to Germany. On the way to Berlin, the train stops at Frankfurt an der Oder. The police entered and took the compliment to the police station because he did not have an ID cardcan appear. After Praise spent the night at the police station, he was transferred to the central initial reception center for asylum seekers in Eisenhutenstadt the next morning, from which he left a week later. Call a friend in Hamburg. Send a mobile number acknowledgment: “Come to Hamburg and call this person. They will help you.

Arriving in Hamburg: fight with the authorities

this personwas Asmara, the initiator of the self-help organization for immigrants Asmara world. Juan’s friends in Hamburg also put him in touch with her. In order for Juan and Price to stay in Germany, they needed a dummy certificate, that is, a temporary residence permit. This was followed by visits to the immigration office. Without Asmara’s help, we wouldn’t know what to doJuan says.

African students who fled Ukraine in front of the immigration office in Lundbeck. Photo: Mayleen Rivero

Already in a secondTrying to get his fictional diploma. This was a stroke of luck: “A lot of my friends, thank for example, got their fairy tales after the fifth or sixth date.still not. The authorities demanded a number of evidence confirming his residence and studies in Ukraine.

the missingThe original and second documents complicated the process. After all, he was going to apply for a new passport at the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin. Asmara and the fugitives put pressure on the authorities, and eventually Price also received his bogus testimony.

But the imaginary testimony was only the first step. With Asmara’s support, Juan and Price are now looking for a way to complete their training in Hamburg – because that is their top priority.

Both miss Ukraine. If given the opportunity, they would want to come back, if only for a visit. I spent the most important years of my life in Ukraine. It’s Betty. It made me the person I am today,” Juan says. However, both Joan and Price remain optimistic. Germany is a new chapter with new opportunitiesThankfully, sure of that.

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