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‘It’s getting very scary’– Irish student in desperate plea to escape Ukraine after Russian army blocks rescue


Racheal Diyaolu

Racheal Diyaolu

eople cross a destroyed bridge as they try to leave the city of Irpin, in the Kyiv region

eople cross a destroyed bridge as they try to leave the city of Irpin, in the Kyiv region


Racheal Diyaolu

Teenager Racheal Diyaolu has pleaded with the Irish Government to help her and other students flee Ukraine, saying: “It’s getting very scary.”

The Carlow student described feeling “hopeless” after she waited three hours at a pre-arranged location in Ukraine for a failed rescue mission yesterday morning.

The 19-year-old told the Irish Independent she hopes Russian officials will allow for the safe passage of hundreds of international students, including herself, to take place soon.

A rescue mission by two Scottish volunteers – to help Ms Diyaolu, two other students and a Ukrainian family leave the country – failed after the volunteers said they were fired at by Russian soldiers.

The medical student, who is in Sumy, a heavily bombarded city, described losing all hope, as she learned the rescue attempt had fallen apart. She admitted feeling most concerned about breaking the news to her mother back home.

Ms Diyaolu said: “We are not pawns in a war, we are young people who came to Ukraine to get an education, to build a future career. I came here to build a future in medicine.

“We’ve already had that taken from us and we’ve been put in danger. This is not what we hoped for. We would love to go back to our initial motives for being here – to studying medicine.

“We want to go back to life. We are young – someone’s daughter or son, sister or brother. We are human beings. I want Russia to make it easier for us to go home. We just want to go home. Unfortunately the rescue didn’t go the way we hoped. They were coming with a minivan to get me and a family.

“We prepared to meet them this morning in a designated pick-up location but 89km outside the city, they got stopped and fired at. The Russian army told them they couldn’t advance.

“We need all officials to work together to help us get out of Ukraine. There are thousands of students across Ukraine trying to get home.

“Here in Sumy, we are surrounded and we are pleading with the Irish Government to do the best they can to get us out of here. It’s getting very scary.”

When contacted about her case by the Irish Independent, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The department remains in ongoing contact with registered Irish citizens in Ukraine. As with all consular cases, the department does not comment on the details of any specific case.”

Ms Diyaolu moved to Sumy last November to study medicine at the State University.

She said she felt fearful trying to leave yesterday morning, as the city she adored is now a “ghost town”.

“We waited three hours for them (rescuers) to get in. When I heard the rescue attempt had failed, I felt hopeless. I worried how I’d break it to my mam. Her hopes were got up and torn right back down again.”

She said a “little community” of students had helped keep her strong.

“Here, we are all in the same boat,” said Ms Diyaolu. “We are each other’s support systems.

“We’re keeping each other’s spirits up, cooking together, joking together, keeping sane.

“We keep in contact with our families, who are doing their best and we’re doing our best to stay safe and protected.”

She said she gets calls from Irish officials, as well as emails, “asking about my wellness”, and they also check for any updates as well as giving security tips.

“I want to come home as soon as possible,” she said.

“But I know If I go home, it would be so upsetting leaving friends behind, so I’m just hoping everyone can go home.”

The north-eastern city of Sumy has reportedly been surrounded by hostile forces.

Early yesterday morning, the two Scottish volunteers had been due to enter the city to rescue Ms Diyaolu and the others. The men are landscapers but have been travelling around Ukraine to rescue people from conflict zones.

However, their vehicle was reportedly fired upon by Russian forces. A TikTok account which has been providing updates on the failed mission said that they were “raided” by the Russian military and had their front tyres shot out.

It added that one of the men had their phone seized before they were forced to turn back.

In an update, it was stated that locals were assisting them with securing new tyres. It is not yet known if they will attempt to re-enter Sumy.

Ms Diyaolu’s sister, Christiana, said they went from “hopefulness to hopelessness in a matter of minutes”.

“Sumy is proving to be an awful place to get to,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s supposedly surrounded by Russian military.

“I don’t know how much more devastation we can take. Please, the humanitarian ceasefire/corridor for evacuation should extend to Sumy. These students need help.

“I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on my worst enemy, honest to God. There’s still hundreds of students trapped in Sumy, three of them (Irish).

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