Emmanuel Oyedele lost his dream of obtaining a business degree from Ukraine, but he says he is blessed right now.
Oyedele, his brother, and two of his young female friends fled Kyiv in a hasty escape attempt as Russian forces advanced. Oyedele and his brother spent days fleeing Ukraine by train and foot, before finally reaching Berlin where they were welcomed into the home of a stranger.
Oyedele, who was speaking Monday from a lakeside home an hour outside Berlin said that the stress is gone. The Vollmann family has offered Oyedele and his group a place to stay until April 31.
Oyedele said that the only stress he has right now is the sadness and the sympathy he feels for his brothers stuck in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine. He said that aside from the danger of being captured in the fighting, those left behind now sleep in cold apartments without heat or water.
The U.N. refugee agency reports that more than 1.7million people fled Ukraine after the conflict began. Many more are still trying to escape. There are thousands of foreigners among them, including many students from Asia or Africa who, like Oyedele had hoped to gain a foothold in Europe by obtaining a degree in Ukraine.
Reports that non-white people were turned back at the border when they attempted to enter Poland prompted Oyedele to take a long detour through Hungary where they were finally able to reach Berlin.
Christian Vollmann was a mid-40s tech entrepreneur. He was one of hundreds of Germans who waited at the train station Friday night to see if he could take in as many people and how long.
Vollmann said that he felt helpless and wanted something to do after he and Oyedele were paired up by volunteers looking to find homes to trainloads of weary refugees. Many of them carried little more than a small bag containing their most valuable belongings.
He said, “We are so fortunate here.”
In 2015, Germany received nearly 900,000. Many of these refugees fled wars in Syria and Iraq. Many Germans made a conscious effort to integrate the refugees, which led to tensions and the rise in far-right parties.
Berlin has so far been welcoming those fleeing war-torn Ukraine with open arms, but it is starting to feel the strain.
Franziska Giffey, Berlin Mayor, stated Monday that it was important for people to not only arrive in Berlin but also be accommodated in other countries so that we can manage it.
The overwhelming majority of the over 10,000 people who have arrived in Berlin each day since Friday have found shelter in private accommodation with their friends or volunteers.
Giffey acknowledged the kindness of Berliners, but warned it won’t work long-term.
She said that clearing out a child’s room is possible for a time, for one or two days, or for several weeks. However, she warned that people may eventually need to live in a different place.
Vollmann believes he made the right decision in taking Oyedele and his friends into his home. Already, the Nigerians and their German hosts spent a night at a campfire, drinking beer and getting acquainted with each other.
Vollmann stated, “It was amazing to see how thankful they were. How much joy they had. And how many plans they are already making.”
He is hopeful that the Europeans’ support for those fleeing Ukraine can continue.
Vollmann stated, “In my opinion this sends out a very strong message.” “The more aggression, the more solidarity must come from our side.”
Oyedele too has set his sights on Europe.
He said, “I believe Germany has a place for me.”