Exclusive: South African Student in Ukraine Shares Terrifying Experience When Russia Launched its Attack

Exclusive: South African Student in Ukraine Shares Terrifying Experience When Russia Launched its Attack

Luphumlo Ntengu is a sixth-year medical student who was studying in Ukraine. He had to return to South Africa due to Russia's invasion. Speaking to Briefly News, Ntenga shares fond memories of living in Ukraine and the terrifying experience of being caught in a war.

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It has been over 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, and many people's lives have been turned upside down since then. Ukraine has been a home for many African students who sought an education but had to leave their dreams behind because of the war.

Sixth-year medical student, Luphumlo Ntengu, is one of those students and says he first believed that Russian troops would only be in Ukraine for a maximum of two days; however, that turned out not to be the case.

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Luphumalo Ntenga, medical student, Russia, Ukraine, war, South Africa, Gqeberha, Eastern Cape
Sixth-year medical student Luphumlo Ntengu says he is quite disappointed that the South African Government has not labelled Russia as the aggressor in the ongoing war. Images: Supplied
Source: UGC

South African student studying in Ukraine recalls how he felt when Russia invaded Ukraine

Speaking to Briefly News, Ntengu recalled watching a United Nations security council sitting on television on the morning Russian troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. He did not realise at that moment that his peaceful life in Ukraine would drastically change.

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"On that morning, I was watching a UN security council sitting and I heard there that the war had started," stated Ntengu.

Ntengu stated he had been following the politics around Russia's intentions to invade Ukraine before Moscow invaded Kyiv. He and fellow South African students were added to a WhatsApp group by South Africa's ambassador in Ukraine, Armenia and Molodova, Andre Groenewald.

Ntengu explained that the students were given updates about the latest developments and were even told to prepare a small bag in case Russia followed through with threats to attack Ukraine so they could be quickly evacuated.

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The medical student recalled being terrified and anxious along with his fellow students when the bombings in the city began. He explains that they were distraught because they had never been in the throes of war before.

"After two hours or three hours, we would hear air raid sirens and I think they were the most traumatic. I usually play war games like Call of Duty and those sounds I would only hear in those games and never heard them in real life."

Ntengu said he and his fellow students grew more fearful because they realised that they did not have enough money to fly back home and did not know what would happen to them if Russian invasion did not end within two days.

Ntengu says he did not want to leave Ukraine when Russia invaded

Ntenga said there were a few students who immediately left Ukraine after the country came under siege. Students in Vinnytsia were evacuated a week after the invasion; however, he was not too keen to leave his new home.

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"I was a bit hesitant to leave. I was the last person in a hostel of about 600 students," he explains.

Ntengu says the last bus was about to leave Vinnytsia, and he had to be begged by a fellow South African student and Groenewald to get on that bus.

"Andre called me and said, you cannot stay in Ukraine and let the other students leave you behind. What if you stay there and there is no food next week, and what if there is no petrol for you to escape?" said Ntengu.

Half an hour before the evacuation bus was supposed to leave, Ntengu grabbed his small emergency bag and left everything behind and ran for the bus.

Ntenga's main concern at the time was, what if he left and the war ended before his exams were supposed to be written, and he did not have enough money to return to Ukraine? He added that he felt like Vinnytsia was relatively peaceful because there were no territorial invasions, just missile strikes, so he believed he would have been fine.

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In fact, his main reason for wanting to stay had to do with finances.

Ntengu speaks fondly about Ukrainian culture

Ntengu says Ukrainians were really welcoming from the moment he stepped off the plane. He added that he experienced the hospitable nature of Ukrainians on arrival in the country that had been his home for six years.

He added that he made many friends while he was in Ukraine, and he also got to experience people from different walks of life.

Ntengu said he loved living in a country with low crime rates because that meant he could walk late at night without the fear that he would be mugged for his cell phone. The medical student went on to say that the innovation in Ukraine also inspired him to start cool businesses in his township in future.

Ntengu stated that he also realised that Ukrainians value their culture, respect and traditional gender roles, adding that Ukrainian values are somewhat similar to those of South Africans.

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"As South Africans, we are quite hospitable people. We have a diverse culture that we always celebrate," said Ntenga.

He further added that South Africans and Ukrainians have a shared history of colonisation, referring to when Ukraine was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Ntengu calls on South African Government to label Russia the aggressor

The final-year medical student shared that he was quite disappointed when he learned that the South African government abstained from voting in the UN general assembly to sanction Russia and label the country as the aggressor.

Ntengu said that he believes SA Government made that decision because Russia helped South Africa during apartheid; however, they needed to condemn Russia's current actions.

"I understand that they were helped by Russia in the apartheid years, but Russia has now broken all international laws by invading Ukraine," said Ntengu.

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He emphasised that he felt that South Africa is supposed to support Ukraine at all times. Ntengu added Russia is trying to compromise Ukraine's sovereignty by not allowing the country to make its own decisions. He went on to question why the South African Government is supporting the oppressor.

Ntengu also added that he does not believe that South Africa is a neutral country because after the war began, President Cyril Ramaphosa was quick to get on the phone to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin but took ages to actually have a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ntengu plans to return to Ukraine someday

Ntengu stated that for now, he is staying in South Africa, and he will complete his studies at an SA university. He also plans to work as a medical doctor here; however, he will return to Ukraine someday because that is his second home.

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Ntengu says he also cultivated many friendships in Ukraine and would like to see his friends again someday.

Ntengu was born and raised in Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape. He always had ambitions to study and become a doctor someday; however, he had not been accepted into any medical schools in South Africa.

Instead of sitting at home with dashed hopes and dreams, Ntengu decided to study for a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree at Nelson Mandela University in 2016. Ntengu says he knew that a BSc was not his ultimate goal, and luckily for him, he learned about a great opportunity to study medicine in Ukraine, a decision he says he has not regretted since.

He said a fellow BSc student told him that he knew someone that would help him with the application process. In 2017, Ntengu found himself studying medicine at Vinnytsia National Medial University in Vinnytsia.

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"During my BSc studies, I learnt about Ukraine and decided to grab the opportunity with both hands. I applied and I received provisional acceptance," said Ntengu.

While in South Africa, Ntengu says he is playing his part by educating fellow South Africans about what is happening in Ukraine when he meets them. He also re-shares articles from trusted media houses that speak about the hardships Ukrainians are going through as the war continues.

Ukrainian Association urges South African Government to immediately cut economic ties with Russia

In a previous report, Briefly News reported that the South African Government was called upon to act decisively as Russia continues to invade Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Association of South Africa (UAZA) is digging deep for their allies in the southern tip of Africa to respond to the request in kind. The request: to stop all economic relations with the country waging the conflict – Russia.

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The Ukrainian community took to the streets of Cape Town to demonstrate outside the Parliament building in an attempt to have their cries heard. Various slogans with messages strewn across were carried by the country's immigrants and other supporters standing in solidarity with Ukraine.

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Source: Briefly News

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