Students scramble to leave Ukraine as the conflict intensifies, reaching new cities.
People wait to board an evacuation train from Kyiv to Lviv
Many people have been evacuated from the capital, Kyiv, as the fighting intensifies.
Lolade Lawal’s life has been turned upside down in a way she never imagined.
The third-year medical student from Nigeria is coming to terms with the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that started last week.
“It is scary, very scary. I’m very worried. People are running for their lives. We are hiding in groups so we can keep an eye on each other,” Lawal told Al Jazeera over the phone as she sheltered with other students at a safe bunker in the northeastern city of Sumy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered what he said was a “special military operation” against Ukraine on Thursday. A full-scale invasion followed, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declaring martial law, saying his country would defend itself.
On Saturday, fighting reached the streets of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv as Russian troops pressed ahead.
According to the US military, Russia now has at least 50 percent of its estimated 150,000-strong invasion forces in Ukraine.
The conflict has so far killed more than 200 civilians, including three children. Nearly 1,100 have been injured in the conflict, including 33 children, according to Ukraine’s health ministry.
The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been displaced within the country since the conflict started.
“There’s no escape. Trains have stopped working. Most supermarkets are closed and those that are opened are running very low on food stocks. ATMs are not working and everyone is desperately looking for money,” Lawal said, as sirens went off in the background.
There are no official figures on the number of African students currently studying in Ukraine but Lawal said “there are hundreds of us in our city”.
“At my university, there are about 100 Nigerian students. I’m sheltering with some of them,” Lawal added.
Some students have managed to cross the border into Poland.
“I live in Kyiv. I have been living here since March last year,” Somto Orah, a student at State University of Telecommunications in Kyiv, told Al Jazeera.
“We have received no support from any government authorities. The school only gave us bomb shelter to hide when the air raid siren is on. The sirens came on and off for about five times yesterday before I left,” Orah, a Nigerian national, added.
“There is little food. I couldn’t access cash for two days now. Every ATM on the road has no cash.”