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‘It is scary. We don’t want to die’: Arab students stuck in Ukraine call for help

by Feb 25, 2022Arab News

Arab students stuck in Ukraine are appealing for help to get out of the country as Russia continues its military assault.

They say there are thousands caught in the country trying to shelter from bombing raids and fast running out of money.

They come from countries across the Arab World and have called for anyone who can help to do so.

Ghassan Abdallah, 28, said he and his brother were caught off-guard on Thursday when Russian forces surrounded Kharkiv.

The Lebanese medical student appealed for help to leave the city, in the country’s north-east.

Kharkiv is the second-largest city in Ukraine. Its residents were woken on Thursday by the sounds of rockets and bombs as Russian forces began their assault.

“We didn’t think we would be affected,” Mr Abdallah said, because of the city’s high number of Russian-speaking residents.

“There is no one on the roads and long queues in front of the supermarket and [petrol] station.

“I left briefly to buy supplies and to stock up. It isn’t safe here any more and we are worried for our lives.”

Ghassan Abdallah, 28. 'There is no one on the roads and long queues in front of the supermarket and gas station,' he said. Photo: Ghassan Abdallah

It is believed that more than 1,000 Lebanese students are studying in Kharkiv. In a video, Mr Abdallah asked his government for help to get them out.

“It is scary. We asked the embassy and they said to be careful, but how would that benefit us now? We don’t want to lose our lives,” he said. “Please find us a solution and help us to leave.

“True, this country took us in and educated us but it isn’t more precious than our lives.”

Fadwa Ali, 22, a medical student from Tunisia, also appealed for help.

“We are all Arab students. Please help us,” said Ms Ali, who was hiding out in an apartment in Kiev with classmates from Tunisia, Yemen and Iraq.

They were told to go to a shelter but the roads to the shelters are closed and most safe places are overflowing with people.

“The shelters are full and are not safe,” Ms Ali said. “We don’t have any money because the banks are closed.

“This is a nightmare. We are stuck in a war. Our families are worried about us and there is nothing we can do. Please help us quickly. Anything can happen at any moment.”

Ms Ali was told by her embassy that a bus would arrive to take them to the borders but buses are yet to arrive.

“They don’t know where we are so how and when will these buses come?” she asked. “The airports are closed and there are no taxis around. I don’t know how we will survive in this situation. It is very bad here.”

Egyptian Hossam Mohamad, 30, and his friends were also fleeing.

“The situation is desperate,” he said while on his way from Kiev to Lviv.

Mr Mohamad, who is taking a master’s degree in construction engineering, booked a flight to Egypt for 8pm on Thursday, but it was cancelled.

“We never expected this to happen,” he said. “We didn’t know it would affect civilians.”

Mr Mohamad said they were told to hide in shelters or metro stations.

“That doesn’t feel safe for us, so we will go to Lviv, where a couple of friends are expecting us and have agreed to take us in.”

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