Five days after the war began in Ukraine, and an arduous 13 mile walk from the ravaged, region, 24 of 28 Jamaican medical students arrived safely in Poland.
Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith delivered the news to parents and citizens of the worried nation Monday in an update to Friday’s report that the students had evacuated from the bunkered refuge they inhabited since the war started last Thursday and were able to cross the border.
“Giving God thanks that all 24 Jamaican students are on a bus to Karkow where arrangements for accommodation and meals have been made for them,” she said.
“The Charge’d Affaires is there and our friends of Jamaica are there supporting the students,” she added, “Giving thanks for their strength and courage and for the team on the ground.”
Initially reported as ‘hunkered down in the metro,’ concern was raised for 27 Jamaicans studying medicine at the Kyiv Medical University and Kharviv International Medical University in Ukraine by family members who contacted the government for help.
Relatives explained that cell phone conversations from the Ukraine were often sporadic and at times abbreviated due to lack of service in the underground subway system.
With limited information from the European warzone, it was alleged, some students hoped to gain visas to Turkey or Moldova.
Later news surfaced that 23 students were able to board a bus to a border city but were forced off by angry migrants.
The foreign affairs minister said then: “My best information is that apparently citizens were angered by the bus overtaking traffic. It is not clear to me whether this is vehicular traffic or foot traffic as we have all been seeing images of long lines of people proceeding both on foot and by vehicle towards various border points in order to leave Ukraine.”
Reports from the Jamaica Gleaner attributed comments from the minister added “In any event, it appears that they would not permit the bus to continue and the students had to determine whether they would remain on the bus and go back towards L’viv or they would exit the bus and proceed on foot.”
Twenty-three students decided to walk 13 miles in the freezing cold to the Polish border.
“We will be using all our efforts, all our channels, all our connections and friendships, to ensure that we can safely get our students home,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness vowed with assurances his office would maintain contact with the students in Ukraine, “while collaborating with neighboring countries for assistance with evacuation efforts.”
Earlier the ministry acknowledged that initially 15 students were able to leave Ukraine; 26 remained in the country, and two had not provided information on their location.
Since then, updates disclosed — four Jamaican students are still in Ukraine — one student has proceeded to the border with Romania and that two are in a part of the country believed to be more secure; the fourth student is still in Karkow.
Allegedly, some students were apprehensive to leave because of contractual arrangements restricting breach. Others were conflicted to choose between accepting high-interest loans, losing scholarships and uncertainty of the diplomatic situation.
Local newspapers on the island claim that Shamar Nicholson, a Russia-based Jamaican soccer player for Spartak Moscow relied on decisions from his agent and is reportedly safe in Russia.
American athletes signed to play for Ukranian basketball clubs are also facing an uncertain dilemma because despite the escalating turmoil, Ukrainian clubs are unwilling to release foreign players from their contracts or grant them permission to finish the season elsewhere.