Denis Otumudia, a young lad from Delta state had left Nigeria in 2021 in search of education. He headed for Ukraine where he had gained admission into the Kharkiv Institute of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to study medicine. Before leaving Nigeria, he had bagged a first-class degree in Chemistry from the Federal University, Otuoke. He, therefore, left Nigeria with a lot of hopes for himself and for the future.
He immediately commenced his studies on getting to Ukraine and expected that he would graduate as scheduled, but fate had other plans. On the 24th of February, 2022, the unthinkable happened: Russia, led by Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and put Denis' dream of becoming a medical doctor in serious jeopardy.
The invasion took some people by surprise because no one thought it could happen in the 21st century. But it happened and Denis was at the center of it all-he was in Kharkiv, a city seriously pounded by Russian forces.
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He flees Ukraine
He was left with no option other than to run for dear life first. He had to find a way out of the city as it came under heavy Russian bombardments. Narrating what happened that fateful morning of terror, Denis told Legit.ng:
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"I woke to the explosives sounds around 5am February 24th. I was seeing the lightening from the explosives. It was a horrible experience that I can't wish my enemy."
That was how Denis packed his bag and started looking for an exit route from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Of course, being a stranger in the besieged land meant it would be a little bit harder for him to quickly get out of the country. But he went to the train station anyway, there were no better options because staying could result in something worse.
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Trouble at the train station
It was at the train station that his problems got compounded. The officials there would not allow him to board. He told Legit.ng:
"They didn't let me into the train, not until all Ukrainians present in the train station entered."
He said it was normal that the citizens were given priority. It was a war situation. But turning back was never an option, and so he continued to wait for the authorities to allow him into the train. Finally, after several hours of waiting, he was finally allowed into the train. He said of the moment:
"Finally, I got a space and we departed Kharkiv to Lviv."
Long tough journey to Hungary
Grateful that finally, he was on his way out of the besieged city of Kharkiv, Denis was soon confronted with another problem. The journey to Lviv in Western Ukraine was a long one and very tortuous indeed. And then the weather was biting cold, a situation that put Denis in serious discomfiture. He narrated his ordeal, saying it was:
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"A journey of 18 hours, no food, no water. Cold was extremely on its side dealing with me because I got a space close to the door which was the only space for me and I had no choice."
Apart from cold and hunger and the length of the journey, Denis had another serious problem to contend with - he had no seat to sit on throughout the 18-hour journey. That's like standing from 12 am to 8 pm. The train however was free, he didn't have to pay. He said of the horrible experience:
"I stood for 18-hours because there was no seat."
But what option does a stranger running from war have? He hard to leave Kharkiv one way or the other. He made it to Lviv, a relatively safer city in Ukraine at least, at the commencement of the war. When he got to Lviv, Denis boarded another train to Uzhhorod before boarding a taxi into Hungary.
Finally in Hungary and out of danger
Once in Hungary, he had to get himself accommodation. Luckily for Denis, he met another Nigerian as he made the escape journey from Ukraine. They both planned and paid for a subsidised hotel where they now stay.
When Legit.ng sought to know why Denis did not return to Nigeria and instead fled to Hungary to seek refuge, he said it was deliberate, that he has the intention of completing his medical degree outside Nigeria. He said:
"I have my B.Sc. already. It's all about furthering my life ahead. Continuing medical school in Nigeria is not an option as you know ASUU is even on strike. So you see, it's not an option.
What's next for Denis?
So what's next for Denis? Is his journey and hope of becoming a medical doctor dashed? Any hope for him in the midst of this chaos? He has a ready answer:
"I really want medical scholarships if possible, else, I will just have to continue with Chemistry Ph.D. in the US."
Nigerian medical doctor who fled Ukraine narrates war experiences
Meanwhile Legit.ng had previously reporte that a Nigerian man who is a medical doctor fled Ukraine in the light of the invsaion of the country by Russian forces.
The man identified as Dr Awofaa fled to Poland and he said he had serious troubles crossing the border as he was among the last persons to be attended to.
Dr Awofaa however said he was happy to have finally escaped Putin and the bombardments going on in the country.