On February 24, the world watched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a television statement Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that their goal was to protect Russians who were subjected to genocide and bullying as well as the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of Ukraine.

Putin claims of Ukraine posing a threat left the country in shambles as Russia stormed in with tanks and troops attacking airports and military headquarters. 

As a result, and estimated 660,000 foreigners fled Ukraine in the first five days following the start of the invasion according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Many were students or migrant workers from Africa who reportedly spoke out about the discrimination they faced at the Polish border attempting to escape to safety.

First-hand videos on social media have shown Ukrainian officials threatening to shoot groups of African students and a woman who was stranded at the border holding a 2- month-old in 37-degree weather. Widespread reports reveal accounts of African citizens living in Ukraine who were stuck for days in the cold without shelter or food being pushed at the end of the lines while watching Ukrainians pass through.

There are concerns that Ukraine, a country under attack, is in the same breath treating Blacks as a threat to their own safety.

Black people across the diaspora took to social media to express their thoughts about the crisis:

“It’s heartbreaking to know that even in the face of violence, atrocity and warfare, some people view Black life as less than their white counterparts. However, it’s important to remember that a world that values one life over the other because of the color of their skin is still a dangerous world to us all.” Ngozi Ashibuogwu

“There has been an attempt on many to label the racism that African people have been experiencing in Ukraine as one incident, a few “bad apples” or even fake. What this does is downplay what Black people all around the world go through every single day — anti-Blackness…This catastrophe in Ukraine is a good moment for people to take a step back and analyze why they would view what the African people in Ukraine are going through as not racism/white supremacy. Why do you jump and immediately not see it for what it is? View it as one incident? Not believe what you see or read and discard it.” LeRon Barton

“Many African migrants are still denied entry into Poland and are freezing in extremely cold temperatures If you are going to #StandWithUkraine you also should not forget Africans who facing racist violence and being put into precarious situations by Ukrainian and Polish forces.” K. Diallo

“Although it’s not Ukraine that colonized many parts of Africa, European ideology is part of Ukrainian culture and is fundamentally anti-Black/African. We are not seen as people and little is done on large scale to change that narrative. The poor treatment we saw was a direct reflection of the way the African government officials allow Africans to be disregarded and trampled on. There is no reason why they did not make arrangements for their citizens when the threat was first announced. It is silly to expect these white/European nations to take Africans seriously when they are the same ones creating many of the issues terrorizing the continent. We have to push to be more self-sufficient and independent and reject aid and other superficial means of downgrading us. Africa is a resource-rich continent, anything can be grown and produced there. There is no reason we should still be looked down upon as poor and destitute and needy and also disregarded so terribly. It’s truly disheartening that things happened this way but I hope it opens more Africans’ eyes and makes the leaders feel embarrassed.” Gabrielle Ohaya

“What is it about Black people that makes people feel some sort of way? I am sad that people have to flee from their homes (currently taking place in Ukraine) all to be safe  physically, psychologically, emotionally and I’m hopeful that other countries will treat them with empathy, compassion and love when they are entering. At the same time, I watch anti-Blackness play out since Russia invaded Ukraine. While I’m hopeful I’m also angry, disgusted, annoyed, and sad at how the Black immigrants (African, Indian, Latinos and Arabs) are being treated at borders. I continue to watch daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly how actions play out toward Black people. Instead of accepting the immigrants who stand in fear for their lives they are being treated with skepticism and victimized in the middle of them fleeing. At some point people have to stop and pause and say don’t Black Lives Matter? Stop saying you don’t see color ’cause it’s more than apparent you do!” Future Cain

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...